Interaction Design Graduate Programs

Jun 22, 2018

This article expands upon the available graduate degree options in the field of interaction design. Available degrees, coursework, admissions requirements and potential career options are covered.

An interaction design graduate program prepares students for a career designing the interfaces of websites, mobile apps and other tools for interacting with the internet. Interaction design students are software designers, so it is wise to at least have some background in the scripting languages commonly used online (such as PHP or JavaScript) before pursuing this degree path.

Types of Degrees

Since interaction design is a relatively new field, there is currently not a wide variety of degree programs available. Graduate programs do exist, however. It is possible to get a Master of Science, a Master of Fine Arts or a graduate certificate in interaction design from a number of different schools. PhDs in related fields are available, such as Human-Computer Interaction, but there are not currently any PhD programs specific to interaction design available.

The traditional difference between graduate 'fine arts' and 'science' degrees is that a fine arts degree is terminal. In other words, it is not used as a stepping stone to a PhD. However, unless the student wants to cross over to a related discipline or perhaps study outside of the United States, the Master of Science is also effectively a terminal degree at this time as there are no PhD programs in interaction design available. Of course, this could change in the future.


Coursework in graduate-level interaction design programs centers around actual methods of designing the architecture of internet-based interactive software systems. Some examples of topics covered in these programs include information architecture, business considerations in interface design, cognitive psychology, research methods, user experience and machine learning.

Admissions Requirements

Graduate programs in interaction design tend to require a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution for admission, though they may not require that it be in a specific discipline. Some programs additionally require a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate coursework. Programs may or may not specifically ask for previous experience in or aptitude for computer programming, but it should be expected that at least web-centric scripting languages will be a part of the coursework. Other documents that programs may request include a resume or CV, letters of recommendation and a personal essay. International applicants may be required to achieve a certain minimum score on the TOEFL test.

Career Options

Interaction design graduates can of course go on to design all sorts of internet and mobile app interfaces, often specializing in a particular sub-field like visual interaction design. Cutting-edge tech companies and industry leaders such as Google employ interaction designers to help create things like their web browsers and mobile app interfaces. A graduate degree also helps students to make a case for a management position on an interface design team, however, a career track that can eventually lead to management of the overall design of a product.

Interaction design is a new but growing academic field. Several graduate programs are available through which you can obtain a Master of Fine Arts or Science. PhD programs are more of a challenge at this time, but it is certainly possible that this may change given ever-increasing use of and reliance on the internet.

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