PhD Program FAQs

I have a background in an area related to design (illustration/photography/architecture/fine art/engineering/fashion/textiles/advertising etc.) Does experience or a degree in this area meet the design qualification of the PhD?No. Candidates with specialized backgrounds in areas such as those listed above will would need to complete additional study, such as the School’s MA, MPS or MDes degree in order to be considered. Please contact us for advice on which of our masters degrees would best serve as a gateway to the PhD degree.

I am an architect/urban planner interested in undertaking research in this area in combination with design. Is that possible?
In some cases, yes. Candidates with expertise on housing, interiors and smaller-scale architecture and an interest in Transition Design may apply and help the School build out its offerings in Environments Design. Candidates with these backgrounds would be accepted into The School of Design’s PhD program only when faculty in the School of Architecture, which has specialties in Sustainable Building and Urban Design, agree to jointly advise such candidates. 

I’m interested in undertaking doctoral research in Digital Interaction Design. Should I apply to this program?
No. The Human Computer Interaction Institute offers a PhD with pathways in Interaction Design. Consequently, applicants with research topics and approaches that demand significant amounts of coding or more cognitive science based research methods will be encouraged to apply to HCII.

I come from a background in business and management but am interested in conducting research in Transition Design. Should I apply?
In some cases, yes. Applicants with backgrounds in Business and Management, but with additional expertise and experience in Design, and who are interested in Transition Design, should apply to this program and will be encouraged to seek faculty advisers from the Integrated Innovation Institute.

I have been working as a professional interaction/communication/product/service/social innovation/environments designer for 3+ years but I don’t have a master’s degree in design. Can I apply to the PhD program?
In some cases, 3+ years of high-level professional design experience, demonstrated with a portfolio and a well-formulated research proposal may meet the application requirements. Our masters program offers a one-year taught Master of Professional Studies that in many cases can serve as a gateway to the PhD program.

I am not a native English speaker, but my English is very good. Can you waive the language requirements for my application to the PhD program?
No. The language requirements for application to the program cannot be waived. Please review these carefully.

Before I put time and energy into the application can I send you some examples of my work and have you tell me if you think I will be accepted into the program?
No. Unfortunately we do not have the ability to review portfolio materials for each inquiry that we receive. To be considered for the program you will need to formally apply. 

Do you offer a part-time PhD or one that I can complete via ‘distance/online learning’?
No. We do not currently offer an online option for our PhD degree. We hope to eventually offer a part time PhD degree but it is not an option at this time. 

Do you offer partial or fully funded scholarships for your PhD program?
No. The only funding opportunity available is the teaching stipend which requires students to teach 1-2 courses during the academic year.

I am a design educator interested in obtaining a doctorate degree. Which of your two doctoral degrees are right for me?
The PhD degree is appropriate for design educators. Our DDes degree is aimed at professional designers who will continue working while undertaking part-time research. The PhD degree is intended for people who wish to ensure that they have the qualification required for future academic positions at universities, especially outside the USA.

I am a foreign applicant without a scholarship and will need to work part time in order to pay for living expenses while in the United States. Do you help PhD applicants find work or other funding?
No. The School cannot offer additional stipends or scholarships, nor does it aid in finding work for PhD candidates. Foreign students may find additional teaching or research positions at CMU that qualify under the conditions of their visa, however we strongly advise that you not rely on this type of income to cover your living expenses as it cannot be guaranteed. Foreign applicants should secure a funding source that covers living expenses prior to accepting the position and relocating to Pittsburgh.