College Factual  by our College Data Analytics Team
       Unbiased Factual Guarantee

2023 Design & Applied Arts Degree Guide

A degree in Design and Applied Arts allows students to design everything from living rooms, clothing, and comic books to product packages, billboards, and logos. You will learn the skills to use computer-aided design, drawing, and other techniques to create unique images and products.

Design and Applied Arts is a wide field that covers many different topics. Students typically choose to specialize in a specific area of design. Some concentrations available are Design and Visual Communications, Commercial and Advertising Art, Industrial and Product Design, Commercial Photography, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, and Game and Interactive Media Design.

Students will take a variety of classes specific to their chosen concentration. However, all Design and Applied Arts students can expect to take graphic design, art history, drawing, illustration, typography, and other art related courses.

#36 Most Popular Major
36.3k Degrees Awarded
-1.5% Increase in Graduates

In 2020-2021, design and applied arts was the 36th most popular major nationwide with 36,301 degrees awarded. This represents a 1.5% reduction in design degrees awarded over the prior year's total of 36,854.

This year's Best Design & Applied Arts Schools ranking compares 397 of them to identify the best overall programs in the country. Continue reading to check out one of our many unbiased rankings of design programs later in this article.

2023 Best Colleges for Design & Applied Arts
2023 Overall Best Design & Applied Arts Colleges >

Best Design & Applied Arts Schools by Degree

Associate Degrees in Design & Applied Arts
Bachelor's Degrees in Design & Applied Arts
Master's Degrees in Design & Applied Arts
Doctorate Degrees in Design & Applied Arts

Design & Applied Arts Degree Requirements

Design and Applied Arts students are typically creative and have the ability to build products, designs, and images in their head. They can take these concepts from paper and create an actual product. Students are detail oriented and perfectionists. They have strong communication and interpersonal skills because they often are working for a client and must listen to what that client wants out of a design or product. Students in this field typically have a background in art.

Design and Applied arts graduates usually work in full time positions in offices, design labs, or on location working for a client. Hours vary depending on the type of work you are doing and if you are trying to meet a deadline.

Students interested in this area should pursue an internship, summer job, or position as an assistant to design professionals. This will allow you to gain experience in the field and get an understanding of how it works.

Depending on the area of specialization, you may only need to earn an associate's degree to work. It is best to look into your desired field of study to learn how much education is necessary and if additional certification is required.

Getting Accepted Into a Design & Applied Arts Program

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most design degree programs and many students will need a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT score depending on the school. Once you obtain your degree, additional design certifications required to pursue a career in this field.

Types of Design & Applied Arts Degrees

There are various different levels of design degrees. Design & Applied Arts programs offered by schools range from a to a , which is the highest design degree you can get. The time it takes to complete a design degree varies depending on the program.

DegreeCredit RequirementsTypical Program Length
Associate Degree60-70 credits2 years
Bachelor’s Degree120 credits4 years
Master’s Degree50-70 credits1-3 years
DoctorateProgram required coursework including thesis or dissertationAt least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to design, with approximately 44.9% of workers getting one. People currently working in careers related to design tend obtained the following education levels.

Level of EducationPercentage of Workers
Bachelor’s Degree40.5%
Master’s Degree15.6%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree)11.3%
Doctoral Degree10.7%
Some College Courses9.4%

69.7% of design workers have at least a bachelor's. View the chart below to get an idea of what degree level most of those in design and applied arts careers have.


The education level required is different depending on the design career you are seeking.

Design Careers

Average Number of Jobs
$31.4k Average Starting Salary
5% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

Design and Applied Arts graduates work in many industries including advertising, fashion, graphic design, illustration, interior design, and marketing. You will learn the skills to be successful in your desired area of specialization, making you an asset to companies, small businesses, or design firms.

Some careers in this field are not experiencing any growth, while others are growing at an average rate. This will play a role in the amount of competition graduates will face when looking for a job. Those with previous experience in their field should have an advantage in the job market.

Growth Projected for Design Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your design degree? Design & Applied Arts careers are expected to grow 5.4% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to design and applied arts.

Occupation NameProjected JobsExpected Growth
Graphic Designers277,4004.2%
Art, Drama, and Music Professors137,20012.0%
Art Directors95,2005.4%

How Much Money Do People With a Design Degree Make?

Recently graduated design and applied arts students earned an average of $31,353 in 2019-2020. Earnings can range from as low as $11,238 to as high as $116,573. As you might expect, salaries for design graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


Highest Paid Design Careers

Salaries for design and applied arts graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top highest paying careers design grads often go into.

Occupation NameMedian Average Salary
Art Directors$104,590
Architecture Professors$99,320
Fashion Designers$87,610
Art, Drama, and Music Professors$82,560
Multimedia Artists and Animators$78,230

Getting Your Design & Applied Arts Degree

With over 3,142 different design degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased design school rankings to help you with this.

One of 10 majors within the Visual & Performing Arts area of study, Design & Applied Arts has other similar majors worth exploring.

Design Focus Areas

MajorAnnual Graduates
Graphic Design8,710
Interior Design5,840
Visual Communications5,765
Commercial & Advertising Art3,597
Fashion Design3,103

View All Design Concentrations >

Majors Similar to Design

Related MajorAnnual Graduates
Fine & Studio Arts37,413
Drama & Theater Arts17,341
Film, Video & Photographic Arts16,778
General Visual & Performing Arts6,355

View All Design Related Majors >


More about our data sources and methodologies.

Popular Reports

College Rankings
Best by Location
Degree Guides by Major
Graduate Programs

Compare Your School Options