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How to Become an Industrial Designer

A bachelor’s degree is usually required for most entry-level industrial design jobs. It is also important for industrial designers to have a professional portfolio with examples of their best design projects.


A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is usually required for entry-level industrial design jobs. Most design programs include the courses that industrial designers need in design: sketching, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), industrial materials and processes, and manufacturing methods.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Many schools require successful completion of some basic art and design courses before entry into a bachelor's degree program. Applicants also may need to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs by collecting examples of their designs from classroom projects, internships, or other experiences. Students can use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on contracts for work.

An increasing number of designers are also getting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) to gain business skills. Business skills help designers understand how to fit their designs into a firm’s overall business plan.

Work Experience

Industrial designers typically demonstrate their knowledge and skill by promoting their best designs from previous projects. Work experience is another way to build a good reputation and establish expertise in an industrial design specialty.


Experienced designers in large firms may advance to chief designer, design department head, or other supervisory positions. Some designers become teachers in design schools or in colleges and universities. Many teachers continue to consult privately or operate small design studios in addition to teaching. Some experienced designers open their own design firms.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Industrial designers must be innovative. They imagine new designs and new uses for their products.

Critical-thinking skills. They use logic or reasoning skills to study the market for new products and participate in planning new products.

Interpersonal skills. Industrial designers must communicate well to develop cooperative working relationships with colleagues and customers.

Problem-solving skills. They identify complex design problems, such as the need, size, cost, and anticipate production issues, then develop alternatives, evaluate options, and implement solutions.

Technical skills. Industrial designers must understand the technical aspects of how products work, at least for the types of products that they design.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition