Degree Programs + FAQs

  • Can I apply for spring or summer admission?

    No. Graduate students at RISD matriculate in the fall only, with no mid-year admissions. The MLA and MA in Interior Architecture and MAT programs begin with required summer intensives. RISD also offers Summer Studies workshops and credit-bearing courses that may be helpful as a precursor to specific programs.

  • Can RISD grad students actually take classes at Brown University?
    Yes. RISD and Brown have a cross-registration agreement that allows students at each to enroll in courses at the neighboring institution at no extra cost. However, depending on your major, you may find it more or less challenging to fit Brown classes into your schedule.
  • Do I have to have an art degree to get into RISD’s graduate program?
    Not necessarily. Our graduate students come from all kinds of educational backgrounds, including four-year colleges, universities, art schools and other pre-professional schools. Many were headed toward other careers before deciding to return to grad school to pursue their interest in becoming an artist or designer. However, the one constant is that the work of students who are accepted into our programs tends to be exceptionally strong, whether or not they majored in art or design as undergraduates.
  • Do I need to take the GRE or TOEFL tests before applying to RISD?
    The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for admission to RISD’s graduate programs. However, if English is not your native language, you need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and submit a score of at least 237 on the computer-based TOEFL, 93 on the internet-based TOEFL and 580 on the paper-based version.
  • Do the graduate programs at RISD prepare students for careers in teaching?
    Beyond the department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design (TLAD), which offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or a Master of Arts in Art + Design Education (MA), RISD provides several opportunities for graduate studio majors to develop teaching skills. Many students accept teaching assistantships to help offset costs and gain experience in the field. Grad students are also encouraged to teach a Wintersession seminar open to students from all departments, which enables them to practice some of the theoretical ideas discussed in seminars. Working together, Graduate Studies and TLAD also provide interested graduate students with an introduction to the collegiate teaching experience and the scholarship of teaching.
  • Does RISD require a written thesis for the master’s degree?
    Yes, most departments do require a written thesis in support of a significant body of final work. Working under the guidance of a thesis committee, graduate students are expected to complete a final body of work that fully reflects their creative growth and maturation, and exhibit it in a group show open to the public.
  • How do RISD’s MFA programs compare to those at other leading art and design schools?
    Our graduate programs in both fine arts and design have earned a strong reputation among our peer institutions and practitioners in the field. The 2011 edition of U.S. News & World Report's survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools ranked RISD #1 for MFA programs for the third year running.
  • How long does it take to complete most master’s programs at RISD?
    Most of the curricula in our MFA studio programs are built on a two-year model, requiring you to be in residence at RISD for two (or in some cases, three) consecutive years. Graduate study at RISD is very intensive and peer-oriented, which means that the relationships you form with fellow students and faculty are a crucial component of the educational experience. Several departments offer 2½- or 3-year options for students lacking undergraduate experience in the field in question and two, the new Master of Arts in Interior Architecture and the Master of Arts in Teaching program, are designed to be completed in a year, plus a summer program in the case of IA.
  • I’ve heard that RISD crits can be difficult and even painful. What is the purpose of group critiques?
    The crit is an essential form of dialogue at RISD, offering students and faculty a focused means of exchanging and articulating their ideas about art, process, creativity, inspiration, concepts and each other’s work. As this dialogue unfolds, it can be both exhilarating and difficult for the person whose work is the focus of discussion. But ultimately, the crit process is meant to encourage new perspectives and fresh ideas—and the caring, critical and inspirational feedback essential to creative growth.
  • If I’m not accepted, can I find out why?
    Unfortunately, graduate admissions review committees consider roughly 1,800 applications each year for a class of fewer than 230 and are not able to offer individual feedback about the evaluation process. The number of openings in each department also vary widely, as do the number of applications to various programs, making some departments much more competitive than others.
  • What are my chances of receiving a President’s Scholars award?
    Roughly 35 to 40 eligible graduate students (those historically under-represented in academic and professional fields) are nominated as President’s Scholars by the department head in their chosen program. A committee then selects 12 recipients, who receive half-tuition scholarships for the duration of their study at RISD.
  • What do graduate program review committees look for in applicants’ portfolios?
    In reviewing portfolios, faculty committees are looking for both the depth and diversity of your creative experiences in the art and design fields. In other words, think of your portfolio as a visual résumé. Illustrate your creative abilities, process, communication skills, and your understanding of materials and methods.
  • What is Providence like?
    Providence is a very accessible, arts-oriented city with several colleges, interesting architectural styles, diverse neighborhoods and a wide range of housing options. It's not too big, but big enough to have a lot going on. And it's an hour south of Boston and three hours north of New York City, so it's relatively easy to get to one of these larger cities for specific shows, concerts and other activities.
  • When and how will I be notified of the acceptance or rejection of my application?
    Accepted candidates will be notified by phone and email immediately after a decision has been made in mid-March. Unsuccessful applicants receive a formal letter from the RISD Admissions Office before the end of March. Candidates who have been wait-listed will be notified of their status and will be admitted on a rolling basis as openings occur and until all available positions have been filled.
Grad Studies Foreground Image 1
Students present both 2D and 3D work at the annual Graduate Thesis Exhibition