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

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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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

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

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

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's
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
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
William Woods University Fulton MO 1479
Western Wisconsin Technical College La Crosse WI 4928
Western Piedmont Community College Morganton NC 2248
Western Michigan University Kalamazoo MI 28657
Western Carolina University Cullowhee NC 6699
Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston MA 3187
Weber State University Ogden UT 16050
Wayne County Community College District Detroit MI 9008
Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee WI 7943
Watkins College of Art and Design Nashville TN 338
Wade College Dallas TX 228
Virginia Marti College of Art and Design Lakewood OH 181
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond VA 24066
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Villa Maria College Buffalo Buffalo NY 405
Utah State University Logan UT 21490
Ursuline College Pepper Pike OH 1252
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Stevens Point WI 8757
University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison WI 40658
University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio TX 3702
University of San Francisco San Francisco CA 7917
University of Oklahoma Norman Campus Norman OK 24205
University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls IA 14106
University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro NC 13125
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis MN 45481
University of Minnesota - Crookston Crookston MN 2775
University of Massachusetts - Amherst Amherst MA 24416
University of Louisville Louisville KY 19771
University of Kentucky Lexington KY 23114
University of Florida Gainesville FL 45114
University of Cincinnati - Main Campus Cincinnati OH 27327
University of Charleston Charleston WV 1096
University of Central Oklahoma Edmond OK 14099
University of Arizona Tucson AZ 34488
Tulsa Community College Tulsa OK 16270
Tidewater Community College Norfolk VA 20184
The University of Texas at Austin Austin TX 49996
The University of Tennessee Knoxville TN 25890
The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa AL 19277
The Illinois Institute of Art Chicago IL 1395
The Art Institutes International Minnesota Minneapolis MN 760
The Art Institute of Portland Portland OR 666
The Art Institute of Atlanta Atlanta GA 934
Suffolk University Boston MA 6908
Spokane Falls Community College Spokane WA 9872
Southern Illinois University Carbondale Carbondale IL 22552
Southern College Orlando FL 318
South Dakota State University Brookings SD 8695
School of Visual Arts New York NY 5286
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah GA 4923
Santa Fe Community College Santa Fe NM 3606
San Jose State University San Jose CA 26698
San Jacinto College - Central Campus Pasadena TX 10507
San Diego Mesa College San Diego CA 21233
Samford University Birmingham AL 4379
Salem College Winston Salem NC 1027
Saint Louis Community College - Meramec Kirkwood MO 12518
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design Lakewood CO 410
Ringling School of Art and Design Sarasota FL 958
Randolph Community College Asheboro NC 1951
Pratt Institute - Main Brooklyn NY 4272
Portland Community College Portland OR 24209
Pikes Peak Community College Colorado Springs CO 9997
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design Lancaster PA 191
Pellissippi State Technical Community College Knoxville TN 7859
Patricia Stevens College Saint Louis MO 122
Pasadena City College Pasadena CA 22948
Park University Parkville MO 9223
Pacific Union College Angwin CA 1468
Oregon State University Corvallis OR 16758
Omore College of Design Franklin TN 148
Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus OH 47952
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale VA 37073
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff AZ 19964
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville MS 2796
North Harris Montgomery Community College District The Woodlands TX 24554
North Dakota State University - Main Campus Fargo ND 9902
Newbury College - Brookline Brookline MA 2152
New York Institute of Technology - Old Westbury Old Westbury NY 5898
New York Institute of Technology - Manhattan Campus New York NY 2501
New England Institute of Technology Warwick RI 2712
Mount Mary College Milwaukee WI 1246
Mount Ida College Newton MA 1196
Moore College of Art and Design Philadelphia PA 573
Mississippi College Clinton MS 3423
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee WI 14296
Middle Tennessee State University Murfreesboro TN 19121
Mid Michigan Community College Harrison MI 2316
Michigan State University East Lansing MI 43366
Meredith College Raleigh NC 2595
Mercyhurst College Erie PA 3186
Mcpherson College Mcpherson KS 463
Massachusetts Bay Community College Wellesley Hills MA 4458
Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis MO 3055
Marymount University Arlington VA 3422
Marymount College of Fordham University Tarrytown NY 938
Marshall University Huntington WV 15640
Marian College Indianapolis IN 1271
Madison Area Technical College Madison WI 14474
Louisville Technical Institute Louisville KY 612
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