The Master of Fine Arts in Lighting Design program at Parsons, the first of its kind in the world, has trained leaders in this rapidly evolving field for more than 30 years. With a solid foundation in the intellectual, aesthetic, and technical dimensions of light, Parsons’ interdisciplinary curriculum focuses on human experience, sustainability, and the social impact of lighting design. Students explore the relationships between theory, technical application, energy conservation, and social and environmental aspects of electric and natural light.
This program is part of Parsons' School of Constructed Environments (SCE). Learn about the
SCE community and explore our
blog to see what students, faculty, and alumni are doing in NYC and around the world.
The two-year, full-time program is composed of 24 studio credits, 30 credits of seminars (on cultural, historical, and perceptual aspects of light), and 6 elective credits. The unique curriculum is anchored in an integrated studio experience in which students interact with peers in architecture, interior design, and product design disciplines. Projects bring together research, conceptual design development, innovative representational techniques, technical analysis, and full-scale study to uncover the experiential and social implications of illumination.
The birthplace of architectural lighting design, New York City offers students abundant opportunities for learning and career advancement. Students also benefit from access to important built projects, industry-related activities, trade shows, conferences, and the university’s network for professional internships and postgraduate placement.
Lighting design is relevant to zoning and building regulations, traffic and pedestrian safety, neighborhood integration, and numerous other matters affecting the city. The Lighting Design program is part of Parsons’ School of Constructed Environments (SCE), along with closely related programs in architecture, interior design, and product design. In the open environment of the SCE design studio, students work collaboratively on complex problems ranging from single interior environments to comprehensive architectural volumes, outdoor public space, and urban planning.
The School of Constructed Environments also offers two interdisciplinary programs that enable students to develop an in-depth technical and aesthetic understanding of the relationship between light, architecture, and interior design. Those who wish to pursue studies in lighting design and architecture can apply to the following hybrid degree programs:
Graduates are prepared for careers in architectural and interior lighting design, theatrical lighting, exhibition lighting, and equipment design and manufacturing.
The Master of Fine Arts degree is awarded for completion of 60 credits. Transfer credits are not accepted. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.
Since 2012, the School of Constructed Environments has offered an MFA double major combining the established Master of Fine Arts Interior Design and Master of Fine Arts Lighting Design programs. This unique curricular track allows students to investigate in depth the design of environments and human inhabitation with a focus on the relationship between light, materials, and interior volumetric space. The three-year MFA track will enable students to develop critical sustainable design thinking and technical skills associated with lighting design and interior design.
Students enrolled in this unique multi-disciplinary track expand their knowledge of light and space relationships through research and design investigations of material, form, and surface interactions with light. Human perception within the interior, and the corresponding psychological and physiological effects of design decisions, are basic to all investigations. Design as a social practice is a guiding philosophy.
The MFA double major offers an opportunity for critical and speculative evaluation of the interior condition; its studio-centered, research-oriented focus challenges students to analyze the relationship between human behavior, comfort, perception, and social exchange with attention to light and the built interior. Human health and sustainable strategies associated with materials, indoor air quality, and energy allow students to position aesthetic and intellectual interests against tangible realities confronted in practice.
Through project-based learning and a culminating thesis year, students pose questions and develop independent ideas, interests, and problem-solving skills. Seminars focusing on technologies, analysis, application techniques, biology, and design theory complement the studio coursework. As the birthplace of interior design education in the early 20th century and of lighting design education in the 1970s, Parsons invites re-examination and innovation of these related design disciplines through its MFA double major.
Assisted by Parsons' alliance with professional organizations and a distinguished faculty of prominent practitioners, theorists, historians, critics, and scientists drawn from New York City, students pursue professional internships and other partnerships during semester breaks and full-time positions subsequent to graduation with leading players on the global design and research stage.
Admission to the MFA Double Major requires acceptance into both the Interior Design and the Lighting Design programs.
To learn more about the double major's curriculum, see the Curriculum section.
Interested students should apply directly to the double major program; they will automatically be considered for admission to the individual MFA Interior Design and MFA Lighting Design programs as well.
Learn more about what Parsons students, faculty, and alumni are doing throughout the city and around the world.
Explore the SCE Community
The following is a list of some notable program alumni:
Director of Lighting Design, Atelier Ten
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Founder and President, Focus Lighting
New York, New York, USA
Scott Hershman Executive Vice President of Design and Product Development, LF Illumination New York, New York, USA
Lighting and Daylighting Designer, Arup
New York, New York, USA
Owner, Principal Designer, Giladi Associates
Ta-Wei Lin Principal, CMA Lighting Design Taipei City, Taiwan
Nikki Escalona Principal Architect and Lighting Designer, WE DesignManila, Philippines
The application deadline is January 1. To be most competitive for admission and merit scholarship consideration, please apply before the deadline. We will continue to review applications submitted after the January 1 priority deadline pending space availability in the program. The Admission Committee will make a decision on your application only after all the required materials have been received. Spring term admission is not offered for this program.
The fall term readmission deadline is August 1 (review
readmission information below).
Financial Aid Deadline:
All applicants selected for admission into our program are considered for a merit scholarship award that is determined by the strength of their application. Scholarship award notification is communicated at the same time as the admission decision. International students are eligible only for merit scholarships. If you are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, we encourage you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found on the Web at
www.fafsa.gov. The FAFSA is available each year on October 1. You do not need to wait for an admission decision to apply for federal aid; we recommend submitting by our FAFSA priority deadline of February 1 for fall applicants. (The New School’s federal school code is 002780.)
All applicants are required to apply online. Save your work frequently and print a copy for your records. You must complete all required fields and uploads prior to submission.
Any additional supporting documents that need to be sent by mail must include an
Application Materials Cover Sheet. All supporting materials must be received before your application can be reviewed.
See below for additional information regarding submission of transcripts and recommendations.
Some of your required materials will be submitted through
The New School does not require TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores for applicants:
Application for Readmission (PDF) should be completed by students who wish to return after an absence of four semesters (fall and spring). Students must reapply to the program to which they were originally admitted. Readmission is only available for current New School programs. If you are looking to transfer 24 or more semester-based credits, you should apply for admission as a transfer student according to the instructions outlined above. The following materials are required of applicants seeking readmission:
Glenn Shrum, Program Director