MFA Degree in Design
The Rutgers MFA in design is a two-year full-time course of study that combines creative work and critical inquiry. This program focuses on the innovative use of technology and interdisciplinary research in the creation of publications, experiences, exhibitions, information, interfaces, and more—preparing designers for a contemporary design studio practice that contributes to the future of arts, science, humanities and technology.
The Rutgers MFA in design values experimentation, collaboration and criticality. It combines studio work and the study of historical, theoretical, and cultural contexts with opportunities for collaboration with experts in a wide range of fields at Rutgers University. The program emphasizes research-driven work, empowering designers to identify, question, and synthesize quantitative and qualitative data and material from primary sources to underpin their creative projects. Design becomes a tool for inquiry and investigation alongside communication and expression.
Through seminars, studio courses and independent work, MFA design graduate students develop skills and experience to:
- Identify meaningful and appropriate subjects for design investigation
- Collaborate with research partners on complex projects that address cross-disciplinary concerns
- Visualize, design, prototype and produce ambitious, innovative projects
- Situate their work within current scientific, social, and political contexts
This program is ideal for active visual designers and other makers who seek to deepen their skills, in order to initiate their own projects and contribute to and lead collaborative project teams. Graduates will find career opportunities in various creative, technological, media, and educational fields, in a wide range of roles such as information designer, interface designer, design researcher, graphic and/or digital producer, coordinator of digital laboratories, coordinator of collaborative design projects and more.
Each year, the department hosts a Design Lecture Series, bringing renowned and diverse practitioners and theorists to speak directly with students in an intimate setting. Past speakers include Shannon Finnegan, Neema Githere, Yotam Hadar, Kristian Henson, Gregor Huber, E Roon Kang, Prem Krishnamurthy, Tracy Ma, Federico Pérez Villoro and David Reinfurt.
See who’s next in the current Design Lecture Series and all other Art & Design events.
Development and assessment of the work happens through self-reflective writing, presentations, class discussions, and critiques with faculty and peers.
- Research Methods in Design
- Design Studios I, II, III, IV
- Design Seminars I, II, III; Production
- Publication and Display
In the first year, each student may choose two university elective courses outside of Art & Design. These outside electives enable designers to engage more deeply with potential topics in the sciences, social sciences and humanities, which will serve as springboards for their creative work. In the second year, design courses address the development, production, display, and publication of the student’s thesis work.
The university offers a full range of academic departments; extensive libraries including the Rutgers Art Library; and interdisciplinary units such as the Institute for Research on Women and the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis. Rutgers provides considerable resources for interdisciplinary research. MFA in design students may tap into a diversity of fields of study and university units such as landscape architecture, user experience design, urban planning, biomedical engineering, packaging engineering, the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), the School of Communication and Information (SC&I), and more.
MFA in design students share a dedicated group studio space, with 24-hour access to facilities, labs, and shops for the duration of their studies. The program is situated in the Civic Square Building which houses computer labs, design classrooms, lighting studios, project spaces, and a 4,200-square foot-art gallery. See more details on the design area blog.
Every MFA in Design student receives a partial scholarship from Mason Gross School of the Arts, for each year of study.
Each student is also offered optional part-time employment in Co-Adjutant positions that support the operation of the undergraduate and graduate design area.
Additionally, there are select opportunities for teaching as a Part-Time Lecturer. These paid positions are not guaranteed, as they depend on enrollment, scheduling, and expertise.
Before assuming a teaching position, most students will shadow a faculty member in an undergraduate design course to learn teaching methods. Shadowing is unpaid, for course credit only. Mentorship and hands-on instructional experiences enhance the MFA student’s skillset for deeper critical engagement and future employment.
As a public institution, we are committed to supporting an economically diverse population. We aim to find the maximum financial assistance possible for MFA in Design graduate students in the most equitable manner possible.
Learn more about tuition and scholarship opportunities in our Admissions section.
MFA Degree in Visual Arts
The Rutgers MFA in visual arts at Mason Gross School of the Arts was established in 1960 as the first non-disciplinary–specific fine art graduate program in the United States. Today the two-year, full-time program continues to flourish through the rigorous cultivation of dialogue, experimentation, and thinking across disciplines, media, approaches, and perspectives. All MFA visual arts students receive sizable, fully private, and autonomous studios with 24-hour access for the full duration of their studies including the summer between their first and second years. Studios are located at the Civic Square Building (CSB) or the Livingston Arts Building (LAB). All students, once trained, have 24-hour access to all facilities, labs, and shops within both buildings.
Notable MFA alumni include Alice Aycock, Matthew Day Jackson, Amy Feldman, Raque Ford, Mary Howard, Paddy Johnson, Jennie C. Jones, Alex Kwartler, Israel Lund, Jeanette Mundt, Sophy Naess, Clifford Owens, Pope.L, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Charles Ray, Juan Sanchez, Mimi Smith, Joan Snyder, Keith Sonnier, and Wendy White.
Check out the Rutgers MFA Blog for visiting artists, alumni highlights, and more.
The curriculum consists of graduate seminars, independent studies, first year reviews, and a thesis. Each semester we present multiple graduate seminars on issues, topics, and practices in contemporary art in relationship to students’ ongoing and developing studio work. As a major public research university, we offer a wealth of resources and opportunities. Students may choose to enroll in courses in other departments within the school and across the university. Graduate seminars are taught by the faculty, the Tepper Family Endowed Chair in Visual Arts, and visiting lecturers. Recent visiting lecturers have included Sondra Perry, Ronny Quevedo, Ohad Meromi, Jamie Isenstein, Halsey Rodman, and Zachary Fabri. Past Tepper Chairs were Kara Walker and Catherine Murphy, and our current Tepper Chair is Park McArthur. Formal faculty reviews of student work take place in the first semester after student’s first-year exhibition followed by a studio review during the second semester. In the second year, students write a thesis statement, participate in a thesis exhibition, and give a formal presentation of their work followed by a final faculty review.
In line with the school’s belief that affordable graduate study in art should be available to all students, all accepted graduate students receive fellowships equivalent to the cost of tuition for the two years of the program. Incoming graduate students are awarded fellowships equivalent to full out-of-state tuition in their first year and full in-state tuition in their second year. (International students continue to receive out-of-state tuition in their second year). No additional applications or requirements are necessary to qualify for the fellowships. With the fellowships comes the expectation that graduate students will fully participate in the Art & Design Department community during their time at Mason Gross. Students are responsible for covering all additional university fees including health insurance, campus fees, housing, and materials. Students may apply for additional financial support through a host of department jobs.
The department also offers a range of paid co-adjunct positions which students may apply for each semester.
Graduate students interested in gaining teaching experience can do so via a for-credit, semester-long teaching mentorship under faculty supervision. Upon completion of the mentorship, students become eligible for teaching assignments as Part-Time Lecturers (PTL). Student PTLs are expected to maintain a full course load.
Note: Teaching assignments are neither guaranteed nor promised every semester. These are competitive opportunities, and offers are contingent upon faculty approval, class availability, enrollment numbers, student expertise, and satisfactory teaching evaluations. We do not offer teaching assistantships (TAs), and teaching is not a curricular component or requirement of the MFA program.