Why This Matters

  • CHOOSE FROM MORE THAN 74,000 JOB PROSPECTS

    Although employment is projected to decline slightly over the next decade, new construction is expected to create demand for interior designers, especially in high-income areas.

  • ENJOY THE FREEDOM OF FREELANCING

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22% of interior designers are self-employed. Independent designers have the unique ability to choose clients and projects that interest and benefit them.

  • EARN $57,060 PER YEAR WITH A DEGREE

    The median annual wage for interior designers is $57,060, while the top 10% earn more than $96,470 per year. While a bachelor’s degree is usually required for entry-level jobs, a master’s can help advance you to senior positions in the field.

Our Research

There are several educational paths to becoming an interior designer. Our list includes programs in interior design at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels as well as certificate programs in interior design. We reviewed programs that are offered online, in-person, and in hybrid formats.

All of the schools on our list are regionally accredited, meaning they meet the highest standards in quality for interior design education. Most of the degrees have programmatic accreditation through the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) as another measure of quality. CIDA-accredited programs prepare students for professional interior design practice.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 78 hours to write this article
  • 153 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 208 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Interior Design Degree Programs

Best Interior Design Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

Interior designers typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, although an associate degree may qualify individuals for some entry-level positions. Licensure requirements are determined at the state level. In some states, interior designers must have a license to perform interior design work. In other states, unlicensed designers may be able to do such work, but only licensed designers may call themselves interior designers. There are also states in which both licensed and unlicensed designers may use the title “interior designer.”

To become licensed, interior designers must pass a state-approved exam. Typically, this exam is the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, a nationally recognized professional interior design certification. The NCIDQ sets minimum educational and professional experience requirements and administers the three-part certification exam. Exam eligibility requirements include the completion of post-secondary interior design or architecture education as well as a minimum of 3,520 hours of work experience. While graduating from a CIDA-accredited program is not required to sit for the NCIDQ exam, CIDA-accredited programs are designed to meet educational competencies established by NCIDQ, meaning the certification process may be easier for graduates of CIDA-accredited programs.

Additionally, interior designers should be proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) software and have strong drafting skills. A high-quality portfolio is crucial for interior designers to showcase their capabilities.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching interior design programs:

  • How long does it take to complete this degree? Associate degrees are typically designed to be completed within two years of full-time study, while bachelor’s degrees require four years to complete. On average, a master’s degree program takes one to two years to complete.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? For online programs, courses may be offered synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous courses meet online, in real-time, while asynchronous courses can be accessed at any time and don’t require real-time interaction. If you attend an online program, choose one with a delivery format that works best for you.

Admission procedures vary by school, so it’s important to keep track of deadlines and application requirements for each school. Information about application procedures is usually available on the school’s website. You can also contact the admissions department directly.

Financing is another factor to consider as you pursue your education. Overall costs vary by program; however, funding sources may be available to help you pay for your education, including federal financial aid, loans, grants, scholarships, and tuition benefits from your employer, if you’re currently working.