SVA Undergraduate degree Vs. Graduate degree and Job prospects

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by gramtos, Apr 12, 2010.

  1. gramtos macrumors newbie

    Apr 12, 2010
    Hi, I'm new here, I was wondering if anyone who graduated from design schools in general could offer some advice for the lost soul.

    I'm an international student (graduated from a respectable design school in my country w/ a BFA in Graphics Design). It has been my dream to study abroad in NYC and my dream school is SVA.

    I want to someday work in the States.. and I have been offered various opinions on whether I should start over my undergraduate study, start as an undergrad transfer student, or just go directly to the graduate school and get an MFA. I've talked to a few friends who have graduated from RISD and some other schools, and they seem to think that if I want to get employed someday in the States, it would be far more advantageous to have a US degree of BFA, rather than a foreign BFA degree and a US MFA degree. Getting both BFA MFA in the States is not totally out of the picture, but I'm afraid it would take too many years and the cost in NYC would be prohibitively expensive.:eek:

    So, what do you guys think? For better job prospects in the future, should I get a BFA again or just go for an MFA degree in design? Would US employers in design industry really care that much about where you received your undergraduate degree if one had a more advanced degree?

    Thank you for any help! ;)
  2. killerrobot macrumors 68020


    Jun 7, 2007
    First thing to check even before you can answer this question is whether your foreign BFA would be accepted at any given university in the US.

    Most foreign degrees are not (fully) accepted by US universities and receiving any credit is done on an ad hoc basis after acceptance into a program. You might have a better chance at SVA given that it's private, but you really need to talk to the registrars office and/or department chair to find out if applying for an MFA is possible.

    IMHO, in a best case scenario, they would accept most of your credits but you'd have to do a year or two at SVA to get a BFA, before moving on to an MFA.
  3. gramtos thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 12, 2010
    Thank you for your reply, killerrobot! I'll email the admissions to find out if I'm eligible to apply for an MFA.

    So in any case I might have to get a BFA in the States anyways.

    So, what about the American degree when finding a job? Is it the undergraduate alumni network of sva, parsons etc that gives you an advantage in getting employed? or any particular American design school undergrad experience that I might have missed at a foreign counterpart that employers find specifically desirable? Any specific reasons, if any, that employers would prefer someone with an American BFA degree to a person with a foreign BFA and a masters?

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated! :rolleyes:
  4. H00513R macrumors 6502a


    Mar 12, 2010
    I second this. I have a friend from India who had to do the exact same thing.
  5. gramtos thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 12, 2010
    How many years did he have to repeat? Was it at SVA?
  6. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Admissions to most MFA programs are based upon not just where you went to school, but a portfolio review, interview and written statement of intent.

    Often, students who are good candidates but who do not have the requisite formal skills are asked to take an additional "post-bac" year to prepare them for graduate study. This decision is made on a student by student basis. It is not based upon what school (or country) they came from.

    Many of the top MFA programs in the country have many international students, with degrees from foreign universities. I do not see this to be a big issue.

    The question of BFA to MFA is an important one, however. It depends upon your goals. The BFA is considered a "professional" degree, designed to prepare students with the formal and conceptual skills to enter the workforce. The MFA is very different. MFA study is more theoretical, less commercial and more research based. Depending upon your plans post graduation, an MFA may make you look more attractive to an employer, or less attractive. The only people really needing an MFA are educators, as it is currently considered the terminal degree in our field.

    Unlike BFA programs, MFA programs are very different from school to school. What is the focus of study at RISD is vastly different from what is studied at Carnegie Mellon, CalArts, the DMI at the Massachusetts College of Art or NYU's ITP. SO, you need to really do your research to find a school that explores the issues you are passionate about.

    You have plenty of time to do your research. Most MFA programs in the US have made their student selections for this year, or are in the process of interviewing...

    What is it about SVA that makes you want to go there? the quality of their visual work? Hanging with Steve Heller? Really into "Design Authorship"?

    Personally, if you have a BFA from a strong program, I would push you towards a program that will add new skills and challenges, not expand upon the things you already know. So, consider looking into industrial design programs, interaction design programs, etc. etc. Degrees that are related to Graphic Design. Most of the design agencies I work with prefer designers with a broad skill set as opposed to someone overly focused.
  7. gramtos thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 12, 2010
    Thank you so much for sharing your insight, lucidmedia.

    I want to go to sva because of its reputation of being arguably the best school for graphic design in NYC (and I have to stay in NYC for a personal reason) and for the chance that I would get to work with well-respected and well-known designers from various fields (although it's unclear how much personal attention I would be able to receive).

    Now that you mentioned that a BFA is a more "professional" degree, that's where I'm leaning towards since my goal is get a job in a design agency in the US after graduation.

  8. definitive macrumors 68000


    Aug 4, 2008
    while sva is a good school for graphic design, the program seems a bit outdated by today's standards and client's demands (they focus more on print rather than tv/web, and let's face it - print is slowly dying out). i assume this goes for any other art school.

    if you do decide to go there, remember that it will cost a lot of money. in-state tuition is about $25k/year + another $20k or so to live in their dorms (which are hit or miss depending which you wind up in).

    advice to get you started ahead of everyone else: go on craigslist, and browse art/creative jobs sections in major cities in usa. it will give you a good idea of what today's companies require their employees to know. this includes design for print, print production, web design (html/css/javascript/in some cases php), flash (and actionscript), animation and motion graphics (such as adobe after effects & final cut pro), along with good communication skills, ability to be creative and meet deadlines while working on multiple projects at the same time. this should help you decide what you want to do and what classes you could possibly take to help you get there. while in school, try to either get a part time job, or try to get some internships at good design firms (if possible), or some decent companies. this will help with your experience that you could put down on your resume, and possibly provide you with some portfolio pieces for later on when you're job hunting.

    now, having said that, the jobs will most likely require at least a bachelor's degree along with at least 2-3 years of experience (entry jobs) in graphic design field. on top of that (depending on how big the city is), you can be competing with as many as 500 other applicants who will be sending their resumes in for the same position. because of this, i suggest that you start out early, and push yourself into taking advantage of what the school will have to offer - connections/network with other designers/design firms. the more friends you can make (who you talk to regularly), along with design firms in the area, the more job opportunities you'll come across.

    if you'll be taking a bachelor's program, then decide to go for a masters, then i suggest you do both at different schools.
  9. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Yes there are some schools that are lagging behind -- including several with big names -- but there are many art and design programs across the country that have strong curricula focusing upon usability, information architecture, interaction design and experience design.
  10. gramtos thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 12, 2010
    Thanks for sharing your advice, definitive!

    Is there any particular reason that you recommend that I do a bachelor's and a masters at different schools? Thanks!
  11. definitive macrumors 68000


    Aug 4, 2008
    because you'll get to experience two different approaches to the subject. many of sva's teachers teach in bachelor's and master's programs, so you won't be learning much of new stuff. a lot of the classes focus on conceptual work, and many times the professors will assign same projects to undergrad and grad students at the same time. it also looks better on the resume that you were able to get into different schools compared to staying in one for two different degrees.
  12. Jurassic Park macrumors newbie

    Jurassic Park

    Aug 24, 2009
    SVA is also relatively unique in that for the most part, they avoid being another school that funds a small, selective MFA program with a much larger and less particular undergraduate program. As I understand it, their professors are all adjuncts who are full-time artists outside of their teaching jobs. If you want to get as comprehensive of an education as possible with just your BFA, SVA is definitely a good bet. I would advise against Parsons—I'm not sure about their design program specifically, but they seem to be riding almost exclusively on their reputation as a fashion school, to the point of seriously neglecting their other programs in terms of faculty and facilities available to students.

    I know you're pretty set on living in NYC, and although it's a great city, you might also think of looking into University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It's on par with SVA as far as quality of instruction, and they give excellent financial aid packages and scholarships. They're also extremely efficient at establishing a secure foundation of networking and job skills, much more so than Parsons or even SVA. Their advice is contemporary and helpful, and their career placement resources are exceptional. Philadelphia is a nice city, and is only an hour and a half $24 round trip bus ride from NYC.

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