Degrees Without Borders: Online Degrees in Business & Design

Completing a master’s of science (MS) or business administration (MBA) in design gives students more than just a basic business education. The majority of these programs are interdisciplinary and work within multiple campus departments. These degrees will often be housed in the arts or design college, giving students exposure to innovative thinking methods.

Coursework takes on a different approach and may include studios or labs with robotics, CNC routers, 3D printers, or other cutting edge tools. Many of these programs care less about what students know and instead focus on training a new holistic method of problem-solving that thinks beyond the confines of business schools.

Many of these degrees in business and design are now being offered online to meet the needs of students who don’t want to relocate, want to keep working, or need to balance family life and studies. Students can graduate in 19 months, but most programs take between two to three years to complete. Graduates can find careers in brand management, product development, design and innovation leadership, or even UX design.

Continue reading to learn about mentors in this field, top degree programs, and DIY education resources.

Fast Facts: Why are Business & Design Skills Important?

  • Opens career opportunities – With a background in both design and business, graduates of a combined program have a collection of highly desirable skills. Potential career paths can include UX design, content strategist, design and innovation lead, product manager, and brand strategist.
  • Encourages diversity – Design careers, on average, have more women and minorities than in strictly business careers. Still, though, they are not as equally represented in leadership roles. Adding business courses to a design education can boost employability and career advancement for populations who haven’t always been able to achieve it.
  • Fosters creative problem solving – Both design and business students can get in a rut in how they view problems. Combining the two fields results in designers who can approach their craft from a business perfective or business people who can think beyond the traditional structure and come up with creative solutions.
  • Provides perspective – Programs that combine business and design teach students to examine issues from both human and business perspectives. The ability to look at a product, business, or brand from multiple angles gives professionals in this field an incredible advantage.

Meet the Mentors: Three Business & Design Gurus to Know

Accredited Online Degree Programs in Business & Design

The New School – Parsons School of Design

The master’s of science in strategic design and management at The New School Parsons School of Design teaches students to combine social sciences, thinking, and management. Graduates of this program will have the skills to address 21st-century problems from environmental, social, and economic perspectives. Students will gain skills in entrepreneurship, sustainability, and leadership.

With an innovative and unique studio-based approach, this program requires students to complete numerous hands-on projects. This program is offered in an online, in-person, and hybrid format. Career options for graduates include chief innovation officer, lead design thinker, or other “intrapreneur” roles that drive innovation from within organizations.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition: $1,810 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

California College of the Arts

The master’s in business administration in design strategy at the California College of the Arts is for designers, engineers, educators, and business strategists who want to look at the world in a new way. This degree is offered in a low residency format requiring students to come to campus once per month for Thursday to Sunday classes. This format allows students to continue working or maintain family and school balance.

Data science and artificial intelligence are integral components to every class students will take at this school, instead of being stand-alone classes. This innovative approach trains students to utilize these resources in every aspect of their design and business implementation. Students have access to state-of-the-art labs, including 3D printers, CNC routers, robotics, and virtual reality. Graduates are prepared for upward career mobility in a variety of careers.

  • Location: Oakland and San Francisco, CA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition: $55,380 per year
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC/WASC)

Missouri University of Science and Technology – College of Arts, Sciences, and Business

At the Missouri University of Science and Technology College of Arts, Sciences, and Business, students can earn a fully online master’s in business administration with a graduate certificate in digital media and web design. The certificate program’s emphasis is on analyzing, creating, and designing digital media for a variety of audiences. With a strong MBA core coursework requirement, the certificate’s additional classes will give students the design and thinking skills they will need to create media consumers will want to interact with.

The certificate’s required coursework includes human-computer interaction prototyping, advanced web and new media studies, and digital marketing and promotions. Students who want to complete the MBA program but don’t want to take the GRE or GMAT can first complete the certificate program. Once they complete the certificate program, they can apply to the MBA program without having to provide test scores.

  • Location: Rolla, MO
  • Duration: Two to three years
  • Tuition: $1,200 per credit-hour
  • Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

Ferris State University – College of Business

Master’s in business administration students at the Ferris State University College of Business can complete a concentration in design and innovation management in collaboration with Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design. This program can be completed as a stand-alone certificate program or MBA concentration and is offered in a hybrid format where most coursework is completed online with occasional in-person on-campus weekend classes.

The design and innovation management courses are taught by professionals working in the field. Subsequently, the coursework changes frequently to stay up to date with current industry trends based on what the professors experience in their day to day jobs. Graduates will have the skills to think innovatively about business problems and drive advancement within companies.

  • Location: Big Rapids, MI
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition: $443 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

University of Southern California – Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation

The online master of science in integrated design, business, and technology offered at the University of Southern California Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation combines design, arts, technology, and communication. This program’s emphasis is less on what the student knows but rather on developing a new way of thinking that will make them valuable assets in any company. Graduates will be able to develop innovative solutions and business models because of their interdisciplinary training.

This 38-credit-hour program can be completed in 19 months. All classes are taught live, allowing students to interact with each other and their professor. There are two required in-person residencies where students work as a team to solve real-world problems at a for-profit or nonprofit business in the US and internationally.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Duration: 19 to 24 months
  • Tuition: $1,995 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC/WASC)

DIY Skill-Building in Business & Design: Low-Cost & Free Educational Resources

Professionals in business and design must be perpetually curious and continuously learning, as this field is rapidly evolving. One way to stay abreast of the new changes in this field is to take free or low-cost courses offered by top professionals. Below are some of the online courses to consider.


Lynda is an online learning platform from LinkedIn and has been a resource for professionals learning new skills for over 20 years. Memberships to all online courses start at $19.99 per month, making this an affordable option.

Classes are offered by top companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Adobe. Students can choose to take multi-part courses that stretch over weeks or short one- to two-hour seminars that target a crucial business design principle.


More than 20 million learners have utilized the online courses on edX to complete everything from a single class to a full master’s program. EdX was founded by Harvard and MIT and currently partners with prominent universities and top businesses across the country. Students can choose courses in design, business, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Alternatively, design professionals can complete a micro or full master’s in business administration. There is a fee to complete many of these courses; however, the cost is minimal compared to full university courses.

Open Culture

Founded in 2006, Open Culture aggregates a list of free online university courses, in addition to other media and educational content. While they do not directly offer online courses, they can point curious business design professionals to free classes such as visual design at Carnegie Mellon, design thinking for innovation at the University of Virginia, and marketing in a digital world at the University of Illinois.

Open Culture also offers tips on how to complete courses for free such as selecting the “no certificate” option on edX or choosing to audit courses on Coursera.

Kimmy Gustafson
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.

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