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Design & Applied Arts

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Design & Applied Arts Major

30,781 yearly degrees
#31 in popularity
$71,000 median salary

Design and applied arts is a major that typically falls into the Visual & Performing Arts category.

There are 861 programs available throughout the country that offer an associate’s degree in design, 1,233 that offer a bachelor’s degree, and 197 that offer a master’s degree. There are also at least 9 schools in the nation where you can get your doctorate degree in the field.

Who Is Getting a Design Degree?

In 2017, roughly 20,200 design and applied arts majors graduated with a bachelor’s degree. This makes it #27 in popularity of all the majors we track. This major is dominated by women with about 67.7% of recent graduates being female.

Racial Distribution

At the countrywide level, the racial distribution of design majors is as follows:

  • Asian: 8.6%
  • Black or African American: 6.8%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 12.6%
  • White: 54.5%
  • Non-Resident Alien: 8.9%
  • Other Races: 8.7%
Design & Applied Arts Majors Ethnic Diversity Statistics

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in design. About 8.9% of those graduating in 2017 were international students. The most popular countries sending design majors to the U.S. are China, South Korea and Taiwan.

What Will You Learn as a Design & Applied Arts Major?

An O*NET survey asked people with careers related to design to rate how important certain subject areas were to their job. The following are some of the results of that survey. Importance was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Design Majors

Design majors often go into careers in which the following knowledge areas are important:

Important Knowledge Areas for Design & Applied Arts Majors

Skills for Design Majors

The following list of skills has been highlighted as some of the most essential for careers related to design:

Important Skills for Design & Applied Arts Majors

Abilities for Design Majors

Design majors often go into careers where the following abilities are vital:

Important Abilities for design Majors

What Can You Do With a Design Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with design:

Careers Related to Design & Applied Arts
Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary

Commercial and Industrial Designers



Multimedia Artists and Animators






Artists and Related Workers



Set and Exhibit Designers



Fashion Designers



Art, Drama, and Music Professors



Art Directors



Architecture Professors



Graphic Designers



Design & Applied Arts Major Salary

Design majors often go into careers where salaries can range from $61,000 to $83,000. This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

To put that into context, the typical high school graduate makes between $29,000 and $57,000 a year. The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $44,000 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,000 and $120,000.

Average Salary for a Design Major  ( 61000 to 83000 )
Average Salary for High School Graduate  ( 29000 to 57000 )
Average Salary with Bachelor's Degree  ( 44000 to 99000 )
Average Salary with Advanced Degree  ( 55000 to 120000 )

Your salary will be largely dependent on the career path you follow and what area of the country (or world) you work. Getting a graduate degree may open up more options with higher salary potential.

Amount of Education Required for Design & Applied Arts Major Jobs

Some careers associated with design require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. Whatever the case may be, pursuing more education usually means that more career options will be available to you.

How much education do you really need to compete in today’s job market? People currently working in careers related to design have obtained the following education levels.

Education Levels for Careers Associated With Design & Applied Arts
Level of Education Percentage of Workers

Less Than a High School Diploma


High School Diploma or Equivalent


Post-Secondary Certificate


Some College Courses


Associate's Degree or Equivalent


Bachelor's Degree


Post-Baccalaureate Certificate


Master's Degree


Post-Master's Certificate


First Professional Degree


Doctoral Degree


Post-Doctoral Training


Online Design & Applied Arts Programs

There are 1,233 colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in design and applied arts, with 57 of them offering at least some courses online.

Online learners must listen or watch video lectures, participate in group chats or forums, submit papers and assignments electronically, take tests, and meet deadlines.

Online learners benefit from being able to watch lectures remotely and complete coursework on their schedule, but they also take longer to graduate than average and are more likely to dropout.

Is a Design & Applied Arts Major Worth It?

The median salary for a design grad is $71,000 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 84% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $650,600 after 20 years!

design and applied arts salary compared to typical high school and college graduates over a 20 year period


Bureau of Labor Statistics
National Center for Education Statistics
O*NET Online
Image Credit: Szilas in the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts via License

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