Industrial Design Degrees & Careers

Industrial designer degree

Who are the creators behind your favorite cars, popular children's toys or the everyday appliances you use on a regular basis? Who comes up with the ideas behind those devices, drafts a model and prepares them for large-scale manufacturing?

These professionals are called industrial designers. They use a combination of art, engineering and savvy business skills to create products that are fun, stylish, easy to use and desirable to consumers. They research what new products customers may be interested in, hash out design plans and specifications with clients, and then design and construct prototypes of those items using computer software and real-world tools. They are also charged with making items as safe as possible and practical for the average user.

Becoming an industrial designer requires a broad range of expertise. Many employers expect industrial designers to be well-versed in engineering, sketching and design, manufacturing methods and business skills. For that reason, some students choose to pursue a career in industrial design using lessons learned from online courses. Online classes can be used to increase knowledge in a specific area, which may improve employment opportunities. Moreover, remote classes are ordinarily more convenient for professionals with work and home responsibilities.

Are Online Industrial Design Programs for You?

Here is what you may consider when choosing an online industrial design program:

  • Requirements for hire may vary by institution, but many companies require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in industrial design, architecture or engineering, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics[i].
  • Artistic skill may also be important to employers. There are roughly 300 postsecondary schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Employers may value candidates who have gained artistic experience with one of these institutions.
  • Aside from educational certifications, employers ordinarily expect applicants to have an electronic portfolio of past professional projects. 
  • Prospective industrial designers are also required to have a professional understanding of specific software programs that are used for sketching and designing projects.
  • Before signing up for online courses, inquire about professional opportunities and internships an online program may help you pursue that will increase the amount of projects in your electronic portfolio. Also, research what software programs are used by prospective employers and find out if online courses will familiarize you with these tools.

Industrial Designer Career Paths and Potential Salaries

The engineering, artistic and design skills you learn while taking online industrial design courses may also prepare you for related professions that require the same particular set of skills. Research which options may be available using statistics compiled by the BLS.

Industrial designers[ii]

Industrial designers brainstorm, design, draft and construct items ranging from vehicles to home appliances and toys. They conduct research to find out what consumers want in a new product, hold meetings with clients to discuss desired requirements and design items that fit those criteria.

  • 2012 median annual salary: $59,610
  • Job growth through 2022: 4 percent (slower than average)
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree


These professionals are the planners that draft documents, models and virtual programs of projects. They perform careful calculations related to the materials used, the load they can bear, the efficiency of the design and more.

  • 2012 median annual salary: $73,090
  • Job growth through 2022: 17 percent (faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree

Art Directors[iii]

Art directors decide the theme and style used by magazines, TV programs, newspapers, product packaging and more. They determine the best way to convey visual elements and delegate responsibilities among a staff of creators. They also create specific time and budgeting outlines that fit client and company needs.

  • 2012 median annual salary: $80,880
  • Job growth through 2022: 3 percent (slower than average)
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree