What a DESIGN master’s can do for you

When is the right time for designers to head back to grad school?


Thinking about a master’s degree? Not sure it’s worth the investment? We get it.

Design careers are largely built on your portfolio of work, not the letters after your name. But there are good reasons – both personal and professional – to head back to school at some point in your career.

Whether you’re a practicing designer, or want to add formal design training to your resume, here are five reasons to think about getting a M.Des.:

  1. You want to shift your career toward a specific context – and one with growing opportunities.  As your career progresses, you’ll increasingly specialize. You’ll need to expand your knowledge base and re-tool to advance in emerging fields like healthcare, accessibility, innovation and digital technology.

    For example, accessibility legislation is being passed in many parts of the world, including Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Many sectors are looking for the expertise to design and re-design their products and systems to meet the requirements and be at the forefront of what is known as Inclusive Design.

  2. User interacting with coloured buttons

     Learn more about OCAD U’s Inclusive Design program

     The healthcare sector is a hotbed for innovation and needs the skills of designers to develop solutions to some of our aging society’s most critical problems. 

    Patient laying in bed using tablet based healthcare app

    Learn more about OCAD U’s new Design for Health program  

  3. You want to go deep. Your career may be satisfying and engaging on a daily basis but you’ve been exploring, maybe obsessing, over some bigger, more challenging concepts in your “spare time.” A graduate education is an opportunity to step back, to look at issues and problems from different perspectives, to engage in research, and to make a contribution to the field at another level.

    OCAD U Digital Futures student Han Yang, for example, developed, as his major research project, interactive film that takes control from the director and lets the viewer take charge of the camera through the character's perspective.Two student teams from OCAD University’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation Program took their social innovation all the way to the regional finals of the Clinton Global Foundation’s Hult Prize Competition.

  4.  Design thinking is hot.Learn more about OCAD U’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation program 

  5. Design thinking is hot.  Government, non-profits and business have caught onto the advantages of approaching problems like a designer does. Even the Harvard Business Review described design thinking as “an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing. It can’t be extra; it needs to be a core competence.” An MBA that offers some design thinking courses is always an option for those looking to add these skills to their toolkit, but learning design thinking from designers, and with a multi-disciplinary cohort of students, has its advantages
  6. You need to expand your network. Your career is based on both what you know and whom you know. Graduate programs typically draw learners from all over the world (25% of OCAD U’s grad students, for example, are from outside of Canada) and from a range of professional and academic backgrounds.  Your faculty are scholars and practitioners who can point you in the direction you want to go. 

    Most grad programs have connections to industry that help you get your foot in the door to an even wider network. OCAD U’s Digital Futures students, for example, have the option to work on a project with the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab

  7. Digital futures

    Digital futures image

    Learn more about OCAD U’s Digital Futures graduate program 

  8. You want to teach. It’s natural at some point in your career to want to influence and mould the next generation. A master’s degree is definitely an asset, and often required, for teaching positions in Canadian universities.

If one or more of these factors is motivating you to consider graduate school in design, check out OCAD University’s programs. Graduate programs at OCAD University are designed to be completed in two years, full-time. But, there are also part-time and online learning options that could work with your current work schedule.  Applications for OCAD University’s masters programs in design are open until March 31, 2016.

Want an overview of all of our graduate programs, our campus and the requirements for admission? Sign up for an info session webinar.


Design for Health

Design for Health (MDes)

North America’s only program that responds to the complexity of health care through a comprehensive, academically-rich design approach. Empowering designers to create ethical, sustainable solutions to pressing social, structural and technological challenges across the health sector.

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Digital Futures

Digital Futures (MA, MFA, MDes & Graduate Diploma)

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." – Arthur C. Clarke

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Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design (MDes)

Our Master of Design (MDes) in Inclusive Design offers graduate students a unique opportunity to become global leaders in the emerging field of inclusive design in information and communication technologies (ICT) and practices.

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Strategic Foresight and Innovation (MDes)

Strategic Foresight and Innovation (MDes)

The Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation is creating a new kind of designer: A strategist who sees the world from a human perspective and re-thinks what is possible; An innovator who can imagine, plan and develop a better world.

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Interdisciplinary Master's in Art, Media and Design (MA, MFA & MDes)

Interdisciplinary Master's in Art, Media and Design (MA, MFA & MDes)

The Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design (IAMD) draws experienced artists and designers from around the world, encouraging them to investigate and produce works that combine art, design and interdisciplinary academic study to create new forms of visual and social research and creative production.

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