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Interior designers combine aesthetics and functionality to craft visually appealing, practical spaces for their clients. A degree in interior design provides students with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience to succeed in this dynamic profession. Graduates are often hired by architectural firms and design studios or start their own businesses. Some may also pursue specialized lighting, furniture, or production design roles.Interior designers earn a median annual wage of $62,510. Salaries vary depending on the industry, position, and location. The top 10 percent earn more than $101,860 annually, while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $37,370 annually. Completing an undergraduate degree can assist in obtaining higher-earning roles.

Most interior design bachelor’s programs consist of 120 to 190 credits and require four years of full-time study. The average yearly cost of tuition and fees is $16,618, but it will vary depending on the institution, program, and student housing requirements.

How to Choose an Interior Design Program

Choose your area of study

Students can pursue an interior design degree at three levels: associate, bachelor’s, and master’s. These degrees vary in their curriculum, length, and career outlook.

An associate degree in interior design requires two years of full-time study and provides students with the foundational knowledge of the industry. This degree prepares graduates for entry-level jobs such as interior design assistant, sales consultant, or staging assistant.

A bachelor’s degree in interior design is required for most entry-level positions and requires four years of full-time study. Students gain a thorough understanding of interior design concepts and often have the option to choose a specialization.

A master’s degree in interior design requires two years of full-time study and is best for those who wish to pursue leadership positions in the field. It includes an advanced curriculum and often offers opportunities for niche specialization.

Interior design students can choose a specialization to focus their elective coursework during their studies. Common specializations include residential, commercial, hospitality, and sustainable design.

Research schools and programs

As you research schools, consider those that have received accreditation from a recognized organization. Accreditation ensures that the school meets the universal standard of academic quality for higher education, as established by the Department of Education. Attending an accredited institution will assist in transferring credits, getting hired, and receiving federal financial aid.

Look for an interior design program accredited by an organization such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. Programmatic accreditation ensures the quality of the curriculum meets industry standards and will adequately prepare students for their future careers.

Gain a well-rounded understanding of school culture, curriculum, and campus life by:

  • Visiting the school in person
  • Browsing the website
  • Following the school on social media
  • Attending an open house

You can also speak with an admissions counselor to ask questions and learn more.

Prepare for tests and applications

Visit the admissions page of prospective programs to prepare for applications. The deadlines and requirements will vary by school, but they will typically ask you to submit the following:

  • High school transcripts
  • A personal statement
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation

Many interior design programs also require a portfolio showcasing your artistic and design abilities. Before submitting your application, speak with an admissions counselor or program representative to learn more about the requirements and process.

Select your program

If accepted to multiple schools, narrow your options by reviewing your logistical and academic requirements. Consider the program’s length, cost, specialization areas, housing options, location, and campus culture. If you require more flexibility in your schedule, choose a program that offers part-time, online, or asynchronous learning options.

Speak with an academic advisor if you need help deciding. They’ll review your options and help you find the best choice for your needs.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Calculate the total costs for the program to determine if you can fund it yourself or require financial aid. Include the following in your calculations: tuition, fees, supplies, housing, transportation, and extracurriculars.

Determine the amount of financial assistance you’re eligible for by applying on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website. Funding sources, including scholarships, grants, work-study funds, and loans, are available to help pay for your education. If you currently work in the field, you can also speak with your employer about tuition assistance benefits.

Best 50 Accredited Interior Design Programs

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Fashion Institute of Technology

University of Wisconsin–Madison

GW Corcoran School of the Arts & Design

Virginia Tech

California State University, Long Beach

University of Cincinnati

Harding University

Michigan State University

The New School

The University of Texas at Austin

Pratt Institute

Iowa State University

Baylor University

New York School of Interior Design

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Florida State University

Kansas State University

University of Florida

Brenau University

Savannah College of Art and Design

Texas Christian University

Endicott College

Drexel University

Appalachian State University

Arizona State University - Tempe

Purdue University

Andrews University

San Jose State University

Rhode Island School of Design

College for Creative Studies

Auburn University

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best interior design degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education. The programs on our list are accredited by organizations like the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), which assesses interior design programs for educational excellence.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of interior design degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From an Interior Design Program?

An interior design program provides students with the knowledge, skills, and applications to succeed as interior designers. Programs often begin with core courses on design fundamentals, including lighting, color, materials, furnishings, and space planning. After completing the core classes, students can choose elective courses tailored to their unique interests and career goals.

Throughout their studies, students will use and gain proficiency in industry-standard software and tools, such as computer-aided design and drafting. They will gain hands-on experience through labs, real-world projects, and internships that complement in-class learning techniques such as lectures, exams, and coursework. At the end of the program, they will have to create and present a portfolio demonstrating the skills and abilities developed throughout their studies.

Potential courses you’ll take in an interior design program

  • Light, Sound, and Motion. Students will learn the principles and elements of lighting, motion, and sound as they relate to design. Topics include color effects, illumination, light manipulation, and light and shadow effects.
  • Computer Space Modeling and Visualization. Students gain an understanding of the modeling techniques used to create and analyze interior space. They will study the creation, viewing, and manipulation of three-dimensional, computerized models.
  • CAD I. This course introduces the concepts of computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), focusing on two-dimensional applications. Students will create, modify, store, and plot drawings.
  • Building Regulations. This course introduces the regulations that govern the design, construction, and occupancy of a building. Topics include zoning ordinances, federal occupation regulations, fire prevention, and building codes.
  • Design Process. Students will learn the basics of space, design concepts, and processes, focusing on how people interact with space, design vocabulary, and organizational concepts.

Interior Design Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an interior design degree program?

Visit the application page of an interior design program to begin your application. Note the deadline, fees, and requirements to apply. They will likely ask you to submit a combination of your transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a portfolio. Contact an admissions counselor to learn more about the application process and requirements.

How much does an interior design degree cost?

The average tuition and fees for an undergraduate degree is $16,618. Students should also consider additional housing, transportation, supplies, and personal costs. Financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, and loans, can help relieve out-of-pocket costs. Those in part-time or online studies may see reduced expenses due to fewer credits and lower overhead costs.

How long does it take to earn an interior design degree?

A bachelor’s degree in interior design requires four years of full-time study and 120 to 190 completed credits to graduate. Associate and master’s programs typically require two years of full-time study. Part-time and asynchronous options are available for students who prefer more flexibility and wish to complete the course at their own pace.

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