Doctoral Degrees

The School of Design at CMU is a longtime leader in doctoral design education in North America and launched an expanded program for doctoral studies in fall 2014. The School now offers two types of doctoral degrees: a Doctorate of Design (DDes) and a full-time PhD within three areas of research foci

  • Practice Redirection
  • Transition Design
  • Design Studies


Our Doctoral Degree Programs are Research Degrees, based upon a process in which faculty and peers assist candidates in the creation of new knowledge about the nature and practice of design.

A research degree program is different to other kinds of taught degree programs where faculty members are the knowledge-content experts. The reason someone undertakes research is to find out things beyond what academics currently know. As a doctoral candidate, you will become the expert, and so it is expected that your faculty will learn as much from you as you do from them. 

The reason someone undertakes a research degree, rather than doing self-directed research, is because they want to ensure that they come to know significant and valid things through their research. The faculty and your peers in a doctoral research degree help you to ascertain and articulate what you discover.

The School of Design’s doctoral degree programs are not only intended for people who want to become academics; they are rich opportunities for anyone wanting to develop research-based practices that make a difference to the field of design and aid in the transition to more sustainable futures.

Background and Qualifications

The School of Design’s doctoral programs expect candidates to enter the program with a high level of design expertise. For this reason, applicants are expected to have a Masters level degree in design that includes a significant thesis component and preferably research training. Applicants are also expected to have professional design experience.

To undertake doctoral research, students must work with advisors who are qualified in their research area. The School of Design faculty who act as advisors are leaders in the fields of Design for Interactions, Communication Design, Product Design, Environments Design as well as Design for Services, Design for Social Innovation and Transition Design.

We welcome prospective candidates with backgrounds in other areas of design such as architecture, fashion, interiors, planning, design management, and allied areas such as art, engineering, media, and robotics. However, acceptance to our program will be dependent upon the identification of appropriate external advisers. Preference will be given to candidates with capabilities for and interest in the areas of Design Studies, Transition Design and Practice Redirection

Visit our Research Foci page to learn more about these important areas of design research.

Contact us for more information

Prospective candidates should email us for more information about the Doctoral Programs.

Please note: As of May, 2015, we are no longer accepting applications from prospective DDes students from outside of the United States.

Candidates should email Cameron Tonkinwise to explore possible research topics and identify appropriate School of Design faculty to approach for possible advising. 

Important Note Regarding Distance Education

Residents of Certain States are Ineligible to Apply for Enrollment in Courses and Programs Delivered via Distance Education: For Carnegie Mellon courses and programs delivered via distance education only: Carnegie Mellon is not able to accept students who are residents of Alabama, Arkansas and Minnesota for enrollment in  courses and programs delivered via distance education because it has not applied for or received authorization from these states to deliver courses and programs via distance education to residents of these states. Carnegie Mellon has not currently applied for or received authorization from these states because Carnegie Mellon has determined that the administrative and other requirements to obtain and maintain authorization for its distance education courses and programs that would otherwise be delivered to residents of these states, including the fees charged by these states and the additional administrative costs associated with doing so, are disproportionately burdensome, excessive and/or prohibitive, at least at the present time.

ATTN Residents of AL, AR and MN: If you are a resident of Alabama, Arkansas or Minnesota, you are not eligible to apply for enrollment in Carnegie Mellon courses and programs delivered via distance education. Note, however that residents of Alabama, Arkansas and Minnesota are eligible to apply for enrollment in all other Carnegie Mellon courses and programs, including those offered at any of its various campus locations.

Inquiries regarding the above may be directed to: 

Director of Enrollment Services
Carnegie Mellon University
Warner Hall A19
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Telephone:  412.268.5399