Doctoral Degrees

The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University is a longtime leader in doctoral design education in North America. In fall of 2014 the School launched an expanded program for doctoral studies that now offers two types of doctoral degrees: a full-time, residential PhD and a Doctorate of Design (DDes).

The School’s doctoral programs are one of only a few research degrees in North America focused on creating new knowledge in the discipline and profession of non-architectural, non-engineering Design. The programs’ primary research focus is Transition Design, an emerging area of design practice and research that facilitates structural change in our societies that enable more sustainable lifestyles. The School of Design is also committed to Practice-Based forms of design research and candidates are encouraged to undertake innovative design projects as part of their research process and to include project documentation and artifacts as part of their submissions.

Please read the following sections carefully as our criteria for application and acceptance has recently changed. Also see our FAQ pages for the PhD and/or DDes programs.

Candidate Qualifications

Applicants to the doctoral programs should have a high level of design expertise and a master’s degree in design that includes a significant thesis component with research training. Design and research experience should be in one or more of the School’s focus areas: Communication Design, Product Design, Environments Design (design for physical and digital environments/IoT), Design for Interactions, Design for Services or Design for Social Innovation. See the PhD Program page for more information about the degree and applicant qualifications.

Applicants to the DDes may be considered without a master’s degree if they have extensive professional design experience (10+ years) in one or more of the School’s focus areas in design. See the DDes Program section for more information about the degree and applicant qualifications.

Program Formats

The PhD in Design: is a 4-year, full-time program. The first year comprises coursework in Design Research, Design Studies and Transition Design.

There are two financial models for the PhD program: 1) Candidates who are qualified to teach on the School’s undergraduate or master’s programs in design receive full tuition for 4 years and an annual teaching stipend of $13,500 in exchange for teaching one course per semester. 2) Candidates who do not wish to teach or are not qualified to teach have the option to pay full tuition of $38,000 per academic year.

The DDes: is a 3-year program designed to be undertaken by design practitioners at a distance (who are able to continue working at their current jobs) with intensive components at CMU in Pittsburgh at least twice a year. The DDes is only available to residents of the USA (residents of the states of Alabama, Arkansas or Minnesota are not eligible to apply). This degree program is only available for full tuition.

For more information

We ask that you thoroughly read the information on the PhD and DDes program pages of the website and refer to the pages on ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ before contacting us for additional information. Applicants must meet all of the criteria outlined to be considered for admission. Requirements such as TOEFL scores and background experience cannot be waived.