M.F.A. in Design

Most academic and professional institutions of higher education recognize the Master of Fine Arts in Design as the terminal degree for designers. This degree has become the standard prerequisite for those who intend to teach at the college level. It is also appropriate for individuals seeking to further develop their professional careers as design thinkers and researchers. The department also awards the M.A. degree, but only to students who are not accepted to degree candidacy in the M.F.A. program.

The Department of Art, Art History & Design offers the M.F.A. degree focusing on industrial design or visual communication design. The Master of Fine Arts degree at Notre Dame is for designers with exceptional talent and strong academic skills. The program combines studio work with academic studies in art history and criticism. Students may concentrate in industrial design or visual communication design plus explore areas of fine arts including ceramics, painting, photography, printmaking, or sculpture as well as other areas of interest at the university.

Stereotactic biopsy table by Charlotte Lux
Stereotactic biopsy table, C. Lux

Tribe community sport monitor by Kevin Melchiorri Tribe community sport monitor, K. Melchiorri

Students pursue areas of interest through a system of independent study with departmental faculty and a graduate committee selected by each student. Graduate students are expected to develop a personal direction in their work that culminates in a professional exhibition of design and research.

Program Requirements

  • Admission to the third year of the M.F.A. program (M.F.A. Candidacy)
  • The successful completion of a written thesis approved by the student’s thesis committee
  • The completion of a thesis project: an exhibition of creative work that is approved by the art and design faculty
  • Submission of 10 slides documenting the completed thesis project to the departmental slide library

Credit Hours

The M.F.A. degree is a studio and research degree that requires three years or six semesters of study and 60 graduate credit hours with a B (3.0 GPA) or better average, including nine credit hours of art history, three credit hours in ARHI 63750 (Graduate Seminar), and ten credit hours of ARST 78708 (Thesis Direction). The minimum residency requirement for the M.F.A. degree is registration in full-time status for two years or four semesters during the academic year. Students who are not in residence but still in the process of finishing an M.F.A. degree must be enrolled for a minimum of one credit hour of ARST 78706 (Non-resident Thesis) each semester.


Prerequisites for admission ordinarily include the B.F.A. degree in studio art or design, including courses in art and art history. However, students of exceptional merit who have earned the B.A./B.S. degree in studio art or design or the equivalent will be considered. All applicants must have a B (3.0 GPA) or better average in undergraduate major courses.

Graduate Record Examination

GRE scores are not required for admission for studio and design applicants.


Graduate student applicants are evaluated primarily on the basis of a portfolio of twenty images, three letters of recommendation, and transcripts. All applicants must write a statement of intent indicating their goals for the M.F.A. degree and their expectations for graduate studies.

Complete the following checklist through the online application for The Graduate School at Notre Dame:

 ✓ Complete the general form information
✓ Attach your statement of intent
✓ Attach your resume or curriculum vitae
✓ Arrange for three letters of recommendation to be submitted
✓ Unofficial transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended
✓ Submit the application fee by credit card, check, or money order

Additionally, but separately, submit the following:

✓ Submit 20 images (or other applicable media) through SlideRoom

For International Applicants:

✓ Attach an original-language and an unofficial (i.e. notarized) English translation of each transcript through the online application. If accepted, an official transcript is required.

For Non-native English Speakers::

✓ Non-native English speakers must also submit official scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) via the online application.

Application Deadline

February 1

Financial Support

Students accepted into the M.F.A. program typically receive financial aid in the form of a full tuition waiver. In addition, the department has a number of stipends to award to students of exceptional talent. Students in good standing will continue to receive financial support for up to three years.


All graduate students are allocated a spacious, secure, and well-appointed studio space that provides network access. Design students share the advantages of a campus that is rich in contemporary technology and still retains a deep appreciation for a heritage of traditional human values and wisdom. Technically advanced lecture rooms and digital labs support all student design activities. Additional hardware and software available to graduate design students include specialized computer hardware and the most current computer applications recognized in the industry.


Department of
Art, Art History & Design
University of Notre Dame
306 Riley Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5673
Telephone: 574.631.7602
Email: art@nd.edu