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Master of Fine Arts

Program Overview

The Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Graphic Design program emphasizes research and pedagogy and is designed for individuals who by previous training and study have sufficiently prepared for the undertaking. Any qualified student who has graduated from an accredited college that offers a bachelor of design, bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, or bachelor of fine arts in the area of graphic design or the equivalent may seek admission. This M.F.A. program encourages interaction among graduate students and faculty across disciplines within the School, the College of Arts and Architecture, and the University. The degree program is currently administered by the Penn State School of Visual Arts.

Degree Requirements

The M.F.A. in Graphic Design requires a minimum total of 60 credits. Not more than 10 credits may be transferred from other accredited graduate institutions. Of the 60 credits required for graduation, candidates are expected to complete the following distribution of credits: 30 credits in a major area of concentration, 12 credits in art history and critical studies, 10 credits in related areas, and 8 credits in the graduate seminar.

Additional M.F.A. Requirements

For M.F.A. candidates, at least 24 credits of the required 60 credits must be at the 500 level. In addition to course work, M.F.A. candidates must: pass a candidacy review, which is usually held at the end of the second semester of study; submit an artist's statement; pass the M.F.A. comprehensive oral examination; and produce an M.F.A. exhibition and public presentation.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships and other forms of student aid are described in the "Student Aid" section of the Graduate Bulletin.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.


Our facilities include state-of-the-art digital media labs, digital photo labs, and a large wood/metal shop. The comprehensive facilities offer students a wide variety of instructional space, tools, and equipment within each of the school's programs. The Stuckeman School houses a number of key research centers and initiatives, and a broad array of additional collaborative opportunities exists University-wide.

Research Centers

Hamer Center for Community Design: Building on nearly 20 years of experience, the Hamer Center explores three key topical areas: design/build, community-based research, and public interest design.

Stuckeman Center for Design Computing: A collaborative research and teaching studio-lab focused on developing and testing innovative computational design techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What campus do I apply to?
A: University Park

Q: What College houses the M.F.A. in Graphic Design?
A: College of Arts and Architecture

Q: What is the M.F.A. Graduate Application Deadline?
A: January 15

Q: Do you accept late applications?
A: Late applications will be considered for admission depending on space availability and administrative decisions. Note that graduate assistantships may not be available to students who submit late applications.

Q: How do I apply?
A: Applications are submitted to the Graduate School at Penn State using the electronic form. Your portfolio and Statement of Professional Aims are submitted using the Slideroom web application.

Q: What do I have to submit with my application?

  • The electronic application to the Graduate School at Penn State
  • Names and email addresses of three people who have agreed to write letters of recommendation for you
  • Upload copies of your official transcripts
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test scores for international applicants as explained below
  • Portfolio for review using the Slideroom web application
  • Statement of Professional Aims for review using the Slideroom web application

Q: Are GRE scores required?
A: No, GRE scores are not required.

Q: Do I have to take the TOEFL or IELTS?
A: International applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL or the IELTS, with the exceptions noted as follows:

International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

Q: Can I apply for spring or summer admission?
A: No. Admission is for fall semester only; no spring or summer admission.

Q: Can I apply as a non-degree graduate student?
A: Yes. Applicants who do not intend to pursue a graduate degree or post-baccalaureate/graduate certificate at this time, but want to take graduate-level courses for personal enrichment, professional development, or later want to apply for degree status, may seek admission as a non-degree student. Non-degree students are not eligible to receive fellowships or graduate assistantships.

Q: I studied something else for my undergraduate degree. Can I still apply for the M.F.A. in Graphic Design program?
A: Yes. Exceptions may be made for students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests, but qualified students must have graduated from an accredited college with an undergraduate degree.

Q: I don’t have a 3.0 GPA. Can I still apply?
A: Yes. Exceptions to the minimum 3.00 average may be made for students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests.

Q: What the areas of Graphic Design can I study?
A: Graphic Design, UX/UI Design, Illustration, Information

Q: Can I have a secondary/related area of study or interest?
A: Yes. Applicants are advised to discuss their proposed area of study and any secondary interests (if relevant) in their Statement of Professional Aims.

Q: How long should the Statement of Professional Aims be?
A: Between 500-700 words, about one page.

Q: What should be in my portfolio?
A: Your best work that supports your application to the Penn State M.F.A. in Graphic Design program.

Q: Do I have to submit 15 images?
A: Your portfolio should consist of 18-20 examples of your original artwork presented in a digital format. The majority of the work should be in the area of the applicant's interest with a lesser emphasis on related fields.

Q: Can I include detail images or video files?
A: Yes.

Q: Even though I'm applying in one area, can I include work that I did in a different one?
A: Yes, however, the majority of the work should be in the area of the applicant's interest with a lesser emphasis on related fields.

Q: How do I apply for a graduate assistantship?
A: All accepted applicants who apply by January 15 are considered for graduate assistantships and other funding opportunities. There is no separate assistantship application form.

Q: Who should my recommenders be?
A: References should be faculty or professional individuals who are acquainted with your academic qualifications and whom you feel are able to present an accurate evaluation of you. Each reference will be contacted by email only after your application has been submitted and will be asked to upload their letter at that time.

Q: How do you evaluate the applicants?
A: The Graduate Faculty Admissions Committee reviews and evaluates all application materials, portfolio, and written materials submitted.

Q: When will I find out if I am accepted?
A: Candidates are notified by mid-March.

Q: Can I schedule an individual appointment and/or tour with faculty and/or staff?
A: Applicants are welcome to visit campus. To make the most of your trip, we suggest you make arrangements in advance of your visit to meet with graphic design faculty. Accepted applicants are strongly encouraged to visit campus in the spring.

Questions about the M.F.A. Program

Q: How long is your program?
A: The M.F.A. in Graphic Design program at Penn State requires a minimum total of 60 credits for the degree. The majority of our students who attend full-time and successfully complete the prescribed courses and degree requirements graduate in two years or more.

Q: How many M.F.A. students are in the program?
A: We are considered a small M.F.A. program, with an average total enrollment of three to nine students.

Q: Do you offer studio space?
A: Yes. The majority of our M.F.A. students are provided with a studio space during their program of study. The program is housed in Borland Buildings on the University Park campus.

Schedule a Visit

Click here to schedule

Graphic Design Program
30 Borland Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814.865.0345
Fax: 814.863.8706
Contact: Nina Bumgarner

Academic Advising

For questions regarding the M.F.A. in Graphic Design, please contact:

Phil Choo