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Automotive Design Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Automotive designers are often regarded as a specific type of industrial or commercial designer. An automotive designer conceptualizes the appearance of a vehicle's exterior and interior. A bachelor's degree in industrial design or motor vehicle design is the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions in the field.

Degrees specific to vehicle design are extremely difficult to find; bachelor's and master's degree programs in industrial design or commercial design are more common, but are still only available at select schools. There are approximately 352 art and design programs that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Schools with Industrial Design Programs

College/University Location Institution Type Program Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $10,158 (in-state) $25,458 (out-of-state)
Ohio State University Columbus, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's $10,037 (in-state) $27,365 (out-of-state)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $15,054 (in-state) $30,214 (out-of-state)
University of Washington - Seattle Campus Seattle, WA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $11,839 (in-state) $34,143 (out-of-state)
California State University - Long Beach Long Beach, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $6,452 (in-state) $17,612 (out-of-state)
University of Houston Houston, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $8,759 (in-state) $20,519 (out-of-state)
North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $8,581 (in-state) $24,932 (out-of-state)
San Jose State University San Jose, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $7,378 (in-state) $18,538 (out-of-state)
Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $12,485 (in-state) $29,129 (out-of-state)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

When choosing a program, you want to make sure the program offers the lecture-based coursework and hands-on training opportunities needed to prepare you for your desired career. Consider the following when looking for automotive design schools:

  • Prospective students may want to find out whether automotive-specific internship opportunities are available.
  • Students who want to conduct research in the field may want to find out if the school whether it factors prominently into the curriculum, as well as whether there are any faculty members with expertise in automotive design research.
  • Students should check to make sure that the school is accredited by NASAD.
  • It may be helpful to find out about the school's laboratory and design studio facilities in order to ensure that the school provides access to industry-standard software and design equipment.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Industrial Design and professional Bachelor of Industrial Design (BID) degrees are both available. These programs typically provide broad training in lots of industrial design concepts and techniques, such as design methodology, product development and pricing, so students can find jobs in a wide range of industries, including the automotive industry. Some programs facilitate internships with automobile manufacturers. Specific automotive design courses may also be offered, covering areas such as technical creativity, design for manufacturing and assembly, vehicle packaging, design terminology and vehicle electronic systems.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degree programs in industrial design vary depending on the field, and they may confer a professional Masters in Industrial Design (MID), Master of Science (MS) in Industrial Design or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Industrial Design. All programs include advanced coursework in relevant subjects, but some emphasize research, which can help prepare students for academic careers, while others focus more heavily on business concepts, preparing graduates for high-level management positions in industry when they graduate. MFA programs tend to concentrate specifically on the artistic and creative aspects of automotive design. In total, these programs usually take two years to complete.

Aspiring automotive designers may find it hard to locate degree programs specifically in automotive design; however bachelor's or master's degree programs in industrial design or commercial design may provide them with the required education.

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