Interior Design General

Interior designers are creative professionals who develop specifications for the practical and aesthetic interior features of built structures. They may work for individual clients in home residences, corporate clients in commercial construction, or institutions in specialized settings like hospitals, assisted living facilities, airports, and schools. A large number of interior designers are self-employed.

The job is not only about decoration, although this is one component. Designers are as likely to focus on elements like flame retardants and materials toxicity as color and style. To learn the science of structural planning and design functionality, professional interior designers typically earn at least an undergraduate education, although master and doctoral degrees are becoming more common in a competitive job market. Some of the best interior design schools are art schools with dedicated programs. A future interior designer may major in Interior Design or a related discipline like Facilities Management, Interior Architecture, or Textile Science.

Interior design is at once artistic and technical, and invariably has a business component. It is also a matter of regulation in many locations. This is true in about half the states. Four-year interior design programs should be accredited by the Council for Interior Accreditation (CIDA), National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), or a body approved by the Department of Education.

Degrees in Interior Design

Bachelor Degrees

While there are associate and certificate programs for interior designers, sub-baccalaureate degrees are less competitive on a resume. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recommends that interior designers earn at least a bachelor's degree in ID or a related field to gain access to entry-level employment. Those with bachelor degrees are eligible to apply for certification with the National Council for Interior Design (NCID) and a state license where applicable.

Bachelor curricula in interior design introduce the creative, technical, and business skills that budding designers need to begin building their client base and portfolio. While some programs focus on residential settings, others emphasize the commercial, large-scale applications of the discipline. It is common to minor or double-major in an area like architecture or materials science at this level.

Courses for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design might include:

  • Interior Materials I & II
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
  • Architectural Graphics

What can you do with a bachelor's degree?

  • Interior Design Consultant
  • Visual Merchandise Manager
  • Interior Design Sales Professional

Master Degrees

Graduate degrees in interior design are relatively new to the discipline. Master students learn advanced problem-solving skills specific to interior environments, often in an area of specialization, such as gerontological design, hospitality, or branding.

Students also become well-versed in valuable portfolio management skills and can begin building their own professional portfolio. Note that an undergraduate portfolio is usually required for admission to a master's program, and a thesis and capstone portfolio presentation may be required for graduation.

Earning a master's degree in interior design gives job applicants a competitive edge over bachelor degree-holders. It also enables graduates to teach at some colleges and universities. College-educated individuals who want to switch to a career in interior design from another field often go straight to an ID master's. At many schools, it is possible for qualifying students to go to graduate school for interior design with a bachelor's degree in any field.

Not all interior designers study ID at the master's level, however. Some major in interior design as an undergraduate and then move on to a master's degree in a related area, like interior architecture or urban design to expand their marketable skills. Other designers, aware of the business dimension of the profession, go on to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Studio courses for a Master of Interior Design may include:

  • Art Historical Awareness & Aesthetic Sensitivity
  • Institutional Interior Environments
  • Research & Design Theory

What jobs are available to master degree-holders?

  • Commercial Space Planner
  • Interior Design Instructor
  • Interior Concept Manager

Doctoral Work

While relatively few interior designers earn a doctorate in the profession, the Ph.D. in Interior Design has become more prevalent. Designers with a Ph.D. from one of the top interior design schools have the greatest educational edge over job market competitors.

Doctoral programs prep graduates for managerial positions and well-compensated careers in, for example, major commercial settings or as independent consultants. Those with an advanced ID degree can work in academia and help advance the science of interior design through research.

Doctoral programs require students to write and defend a research dissertation in a highly specialized area of study. Interior designers at this level often practice while finishing their degree.

A doctorate in Interior Design could include studies in:

  • Architecture & Design Research
  • Facility Management & Design
  • Neighborhood Design & Sustainability

A Ph.D. in Interior Design can lead to a career as a:

  • Healthcare Interior Design Manager
  • Professor of Interior Design
  • Senior Living Design Consultant

Featured Schools

Programs offered:

We found 207 schools offering interior design degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 207 Interior Design General Colleges in the U.S.

Interior Design Schools Ranked By US News and World Report

1
Pratt Institute - Main
Brooklyn, NY  |  Total Enrollment: 4272

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's
2
California College of the Arts
Oakland, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 1180

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's
2
Ohio State University - Main Campus
Columbus, OH  |  Total Enrollment: 47952

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
4
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 2578

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's

Browse All 207 Colleges With Interior Design Programs


Title City State Enrollment
Auburn University Main Campus Auburn University AL 21860
Samford University Birmingham AL 4379
The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa AL 19277
Harding University Searcy AR 4337
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff AZ 19964
University of Arizona Tucson AZ 34488
Academy of Art University San Francisco CA 5995
Brooks College Long Beach CA 1618
California State University - Sacramento Sacramento CA 25714
Design Institute of San Diego San Diego CA 358
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - Los Angeles Los Angeles CA 2648
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - San Francisco San Francisco CA 663
Interior Designers Institute Newport Beach CA 134
Pacific Union College Angwin CA 1468
Pasadena City College Pasadena CA 22948
San Diego Mesa College San Diego CA 21233
San Jose State University San Jose CA 26698
University of San Francisco San Francisco CA 7917
Arapahoe Community College Littleton CO 7436
Art Institute of Colorado Denver CO 2090
Colorado State University Fort Collins CO 26807
Pikes Peak Community College Colorado Springs CO 9997
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design Lakewood CO 410
George Washington University Washington DC 20527
Howard University Washington DC 10010
Ai Miami International University of Art and Design Miami FL 997
D G Erwin Technical Center Tampa FL 853
Florida International University Miami FL 31945
Florida State University Tallahassee FL 33971
International Academy of Design and Technology Tampa FL 1325
Ringling School of Art and Design Sarasota FL 958
Southern College Orlando FL 318
University of Florida Gainesville FL 45114
Bauder College Atlanta GA 598
Brenau University Gainesville GA 2266
Georgia Southern University Statesboro GA 14184
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville GA 4814
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah GA 4923
The Art Institute of Atlanta Atlanta GA 934
Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu HI 2620
Drake University Des Moines IA 5126
Iowa State University Ames IA 26845
University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls IA 14106
Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg ID 8949
Columbia College Chicago Chicago IL 9056
Harrington College of Design Chicago IL 646
Illinois Institute of Art at Schaumburg Schaumburg IL 870
International Academy of Design and Technology Chicago IL 1739
Southern Illinois University Carbondale Carbondale IL 22552
The Illinois Institute of Art Chicago IL 1395
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington IN 37076
Indiana University - Purdue University - Indianapolis Indianapolis IN 27525
Ivy Tech Community College - Kokomo Kokomo IN 1812
Ivy Tech Community College - Northcentral South Bend IN 3475
Ivy Tech Community College - Southwest Evansville IN 3448
Marian College Indianapolis IN 1271
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Butler County Community College El Dorado KS 7911
Kansas State University Manhattan KS 21929
Mcpherson College Mcpherson KS 463
Bowling Green Technical College Bowling Green KY 854
Louisville Technical Institute Louisville KY 612
University of Kentucky Lexington KY 23114
University of Louisville Louisville KY 19771
Atlantic Union College South Lancaster MA 755
Becker College Worcester MA 1166
Endicott College Beverly MA 1697
Massachusetts Bay Community College Wellesley Hills MA 4458
Mount Ida College Newton MA 1196
Newbury College - Brookline Brookline MA 2152
Suffolk University Boston MA 6908
University of Massachusetts - Amherst Amherst MA 24416
Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston MA 3187
Anne Arundel Community College Arnold MD 11761
Adrian College Adrian MI 1081
Baker College of Auburn Hills Auburn Hills MI 1910
Baker College of Clinton Township Clinton Township MI 2559
Baker College of Flint Flint MI 3896
Baker College of Muskegon Muskegon MI 2727
Baker College of Owosso Owosso MI 1905
Baker College of Port Huron Port Huron MI 1230
College for Creative Studies Detroit MI 1086
David Wolcott Kendall Memorial School Grand Rapids MI 744
Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti MI 23561
Henry Ford Community College Dearborn MI 12742
Lansing Community College Lansing MI 16011
Michigan State University East Lansing MI 43366
Mid Michigan Community College Harrison MI 2316
Wayne County Community College District Detroit MI 9008
Western Michigan University Kalamazoo MI 28657
Alexandria Technical College Alexandria MN 2192
Dakota County Technical College Rosemount MN 3086
Inver Hills Community College Inver Grove Heights MN 4304
The Art Institutes International Minnesota Minneapolis MN 760
University of Minnesota - Crookston Crookston MN 2775
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis MN 45481
Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis MO 3055
Park University Parkville MO 9223
Patricia Stevens College Saint Louis MO 122
Saint Louis Community College - Meramec Kirkwood MO 12518
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