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Design & Applied Arts Major

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Design & Applied Arts

1,894 Master's Degrees Annually
25 Doctor's Degrees Annually
#74 in Popularity (Master's)
$71,430 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Design & Applied Arts Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many design and applied arts graduations there were in 2018-2019 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 1,894
Graduate Certificate 169
Doctor’s Degree 25

What Design & Applied Arts Majors Need to Know

People with careers related to design were asked what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. They weighted these areas on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest.

Knowledge Areas for Design Majors

This major prepares you for careers in which these knowledge areas are important:

  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Design - Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
  • Fine Arts - Knowledge of the theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Communications and Media - Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.

Skills for Design Majors

The following list of skills has been highlighted as some of the most essential for careers related to design:

  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

Abilities for Design Majors

Design majors often go into careers where the following abilities are vital:

  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Originality - The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

What Can You Do With a Design & Applied Arts Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with design:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Architecture Professors 10.5% $86,980
Art Directors 5.4% $92,780
Art, Drama, and Music Professors 12.0% $69,960
Artists and Related Workers 5.5% $65,390
Commercial and Industrial Designers 4.3% $66,590
Designers 5.6% $60,570
Fashion Designers 2.5% $72,720
Graphic Designers 4.2% $50,370
Interior Designers 4.5% $53,370
Multimedia Artists and Animators 8.4% $72,520
Professors 9.4% $65,660
Set and Exhibit Designers 10.3% $54,270

Who Is Getting a Master’s Degree in Design & Applied Arts?

1,894 Master's Degrees Annually
67% Percent Women
20% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
The major attracts more women than men. About 67% of the recent graduates in this field are female.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of design majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Design Students with Master's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 95
Black or African American 106
Hispanic or Latino 132
White 559
International Students 866
Other Races/Ethnicities 136

Geographic Diversity

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in Design. About 45.7% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • India
  • Canada

How Much Do Design & Applied Arts Majors Make?

Master’s Degree Starting Salary

According to 2017-2018 data from the U.S. Department of Education, students who graduated with a master’s degree in design have a median salary of $40,600 during the early years of their career. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $36,800 (25th percentile) and $50,550 (75th percentile).


One thing to note here is that not all of these people may be working in careers related to design.

Salaries According to BLS

Average salaries range from $61,020 to $82,560 (25th to 75th percentile) for careers related to design. This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Design & Applied Arts Major  ( 61020 to 82560 )
Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )

Some careers associated with design require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. Whatever the case may be, pursuing more education usually means that more career options will be available to you.

How much schooling do you really need to compete in today’s job market? People currently working in careers related to design have obtained the following education levels.

Education Level Percentage of Workers
Less than a High School Diploma 1.8%
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 4.4%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 1.4%
Some College Courses 9.4%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 11.3%
Bachelor’s Degree 40.5%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 1.5%
Master’s Degree 15.6%
Post-Master’s Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Master’s degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctoral level. 0.3%
First Professional Degree - awarded for completion of a program that: requires at least 2 years of college work before entrance into the program, includes a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete, and provides all remaining academic requirements to begin practice in a profession. 3.8%
Doctoral Degree 10.7%

Online Design & Applied Arts Programs

In the 2018-2019 academic year, 1,237 schools offered some type of design and applied arts program. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 429 27
Certificate (1-2 years) 397 18
Certificate (2-4 Years) 39 2
Associate’s Degree 806 49
Bachelor’s Degree 32 4
Post-Baccalaureate 429 27
Master’s Degree 196 21
Post-Master’s 2 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 9 1
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 0 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 0 0

Is a Degree in Design & Applied Arts Worth It?

The median salary for a design grad is $71,430 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 79% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $630,600 after 20 years!


You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to design.

Major Number of Grads
Fine & Studio Arts 40,751
Music 26,968
Drama & Theater Arts 17,726
Film, Video & Photographic Arts 16,756
General Visual & Performing Arts 5,720
Arts & Media Management 4,766
Dance 3,234
Other Visual Art 1,071
Crafts, Folk Art & Artisanry 124


More about our data sources and methodologies.

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