Is an Industrial Design Degree Worth It?

Ryan Edward Rock

May 11, 2023

Industrial Design Degree - Ryan Rock

Industrial design is a fascinating field that merges creativity and functionality to shape the world around us. You might consider pursuing an industrial design degree if you are passionate about innovation, problem-solving, and aesthetics. However, before diving into this educational journey, evaluating whether an industrial design degree is worth it is essential. This article will explore the pros and cons of pursuing an industrial design degree, career opportunities, necessary skills, industry trends, and more. Let’s delve into the world of industrial design and uncover whether it’s the right path for you.

What is Industrial Design?

Before deciding whether an industrial design degree is worthwhile, it’s crucial to understand what industrial design entails. The industrial design focuses on creating and developing functional and aesthetically pleasing products that enhance people’s lives. It combines art, engineering, and business elements to transform ideas into tangible and marketable products. Industrial designers work across various industries, such as automotive, furniture, consumer electronics, etc.

Pros of Pursuing an Industrial Design Degree

  1. Opportunity for Creativity and Innovation: Industrial design allows you to unleash creativity and innovative thinking to solve real-world problems through design.
  2. Versatile Skill Set: An industrial design degree equips you with a versatile skill set that can be applied to various industries and design disciplines.
  3. Hands-On Experience: Industrial design programs often emphasize practical experience, providing opportunities to work on real-world projects and build portfolios.
  4. Collaborative Environment: Industrial design education encourages collaboration with professionals from different fields, fostering interdisciplinary teamwork.

Cons of Pursuing an Industrial Design Degree

  1. Competitive Industry: The field of industrial design is highly competitive, requiring exceptional skills, a strong portfolio, and continuous self-improvement.
  2. Long Working Hours: Design projects often demand long working hours, tight deadlines, and high levels of dedication and perseverance.
  3. Financial Investment: Pursuing an industrial design degree can be financially demanding, including tuition fees, materials, software, and potentially needing further education or certifications.
  4. Uncertain Job Market: The job market for industrial designers can be unpredictable, with varying demands across different industries and economic conditions.

Career Opportunities in Industrial Design

An industrial design degree opens doors to diverse career opportunities. Industrial designers can work in:

  1. Product Design: Developing or improving new products to enhance user experience and functionality.
  2. Automotive Design: Creating innovative vehicle designs prioritizing safety, sustainability, and aesthetics.
  3. Furniture Design: Designing furniture that merges form, function, and style.
  4. User Experience (UX) Design: Shaping user-centric digital experiences through intuitive interfaces and interactive designs.

Skills Developed in an Industrial Design Program

Industrial design programs nurture a range of skills essential for success in the field:

  1. Sketching and Visualization: Industrial design programs emphasize honing your sketching and visualization skills to effectively communicate design concepts and ideas.
  2. 3D Modeling and Prototyping: Learning digital tools and techniques to create realistic 3D models and prototypes for product development and testing.
  3. Materials and Manufacturing Knowledge: Understanding various materials and manufacturing processes to make informed design decisions that balance aesthetics, functionality, and feasibility.

Networking and Professional Growth

One of the significant advantages of pursuing an industrial design degree is the opportunity for networking and professional growth. Throughout your educational journey, you’ll interact with industry professionals, fellow students, and faculty members who can provide valuable insights and guidance. Building a strong network within the design community can open doors to internships, job opportunities, mentorship, and collaborations. Additionally, participating in design competitions, conferences, and workshops can further expand your professional connections and expose you to the latest trends and advancements in the field.

Industry Trends and Technological Advancements

The world of industrial design is constantly evolving, driven by technological advancements and shifting consumer preferences. Staying current with industry trends and embracing emerging technologies is essential for remaining competitive. Industrial designers must adapt and leverage new tools and methodologies, from sustainable design practices and smart products to virtual reality and artificial intelligence integration. By keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry, you can position yourself as a forward-thinking designer ready to tackle future challenges.

Industry-Specific Specializations

Industrial design encompasses many industries, and specializing in a particular sector can enhance your career prospects. Some common industry-specific specializations include:

  1. Medical Device Design: Designing innovative, user-friendly medical devices that improve patient care and experiences.
  2. Consumer Electronics: Creating cutting-edge electronic products seamlessly integrating technology and user needs.
  3. Packaging Design: Developing creative and sustainable packaging solutions that protect products and enhance brand identity.
  4. Retail and Exhibition Design: Designing engaging retail spaces and exhibition booths that effectively captivate consumers and promote products.

Salary Potential and Job Market

While salary potential can vary depending on experience, location, and industry, pursuing an industrial design degree can lead to rewarding career opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for industrial designers was $68,890 in May 2020. However, it’s important to note that entry-level positions may offer lower salaries, with earning potential increases as you gain experience and expertise.

As for the job market, industrial design can be competitive. Building a strong portfolio, gaining practical experience through internships or freelance work, and continuously developing your skills will give you a competitive edge. Keeping an eye on industry trends and diversifying your skill set can also enhance your employability.

Challenges and Competition

The field of industrial design poses its fair share of challenges. Competition for design positions can be intense as talented designers vie for limited opportunities. It requires perseverance, continuous learning, and a dedication to staying ahead of the curve. Designers must also navigate client expectations, tight deadlines, and the iterative nature of the design process. Overcoming these challenges requires a combination of resilience, adaptability, and a passion for the craft.

Alternative Paths in Design

While an industrial design degree can be a fulfilling and rewarding choice, it’s essential to consider alternative paths within the design realm. Depending on your interests and strengths, you might explore related disciplines such as:

  1. Graphic Design: Focusing on visual communication, branding, and digital media design.
  2. Interior Design: Creating functional and aesthetically pleasing interior spaces for residential or commercial purposes.
  3. UX/UI Design: Specializing in user experience and User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design involves creating intuitive and user-friendly digital experiences across various platforms. It combines psychology, usability, and visual design elements to enhance user satisfaction and engagement. If you are interested in digital products and technology, exploring UX/UI design can be a viable alternative to industrial design.
  4. Architectural Design: Shaping the built environment by designing and planning structures that meet aesthetic, functional, and sustainable requirements.

Advice for Prospective Industrial Design Students

If you’re considering pursuing an industrial design degree, here are some valuable tips to guide you along the way:

  1. Research and Explore: Take the time to research and explore different industrial design programs, considering factors such as curriculum, faculty expertise, facilities, and alumni success.
  2. Build a Strong Portfolio: Start building your design portfolio early by undertaking personal projects, internships, or freelance work. Your portfolio is a powerful tool for showcasing your skills and creativity to potential employers.
  3. Seek Mentorship and Guidance: Connect with professionals who can provide mentorship and guidance. Their insights can help you navigate the industry and make informed decisions about your career path.
  4. Embrace Continuous Learning: Industrial design is a field that constantly evolves. Embrace a growth mindset and be open to continuous learning through online courses, workshops, or industry events.
  5. Develop Soft Skills: Besides technical skills, cultivate soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. These skills are invaluable in the design industry, where teamwork and effective communication are vital.


In conclusion, pursuing an industrial design degree can be worthwhile for those passionate about creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. It offers diverse career opportunities, the chance to develop versatile skills, and the satisfaction of bringing ideas to life. However, it’s essential to consider the competitive nature of the industry, the financial investment required, and the commitment needed to succeed. By staying abreast of industry trends, networking, and continuously honing your skills, you can position yourself for a rewarding and fulfilling career in industrial design.