Specialization increases job stability and moneymaking potential. If you are thinking about or have chosen to specialize in a subsection of the industrial design world, then you need to know what you can do right now to push your career in the right direction.
Acting now is particularly important in this field because advanced degrees do not generally allow for much flexibility within the curriculum. For example, the Art Center College of Design, which provides one of the best educations in the country, has its curriculum set in stone; students must be able to use the skills and knowledge they have previously gained. What flexibility there is within programs comes in the form of the thesis project. The student is paired up with an adviser who has the background to guide the project, and the finished product becomes the most important artifact in the student’s portfolio. Upon graduation, this project has a large influence on what specialization lay open to you.
However, there is only so much one can learn about a subfield while attending a generalized program. In addition, many programs will not have a faculty that covers some of the more peculiar subfields you may be interested in. For this reason, it is a good idea to start thinking about your career after design school before you apply. This will help you select your short list of schools and will increase the value of your application because it demonstrates you have already committed yourself to the field. Additionally, there are some specialties that require master’s-level education. It is normally better to pursue these degrees before attending one of many three-year industrial design schools.
If you already know what product you want to focus on, then it is best to check with professionals in that subfield to determine the degree requirements. To do this, checking design blogs, forums, and design firms in your area will be a good start. Contact the relevant professionals with a brief letter of interest, explaining that you would like to do what they do and are interested in knowing what steps you can take.