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A master’s degree in interior design teaches students advanced techniques and theories of interior architecture and design, focusing on research, concept, design development, digital media, and innovative ideas. Graduates advance to positions as senior interior designers, interior architects, design project managers, or art directors in interior design studios, architecture, real estate, and design consultancy firms.

The median annual salary for interior designers is $62,510. Wages vary depending on the industry, location, and level of experience. The top ten percent of interior designers earn more than $101,960 annually, while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $37,730. With the field’s highly competitive nature, interior designers with a master’s degree have a better chance of being hired for high-earning positions than those with a bachelor’s degree.

Master’s programs in interior design require between 30 and 87 credits for graduation. Most students complete the degree in two years of full-time study. Some schools offer accelerated or part-time schedules, where students can complete the degree at their preferred pace. The average annual cost for master’s programs is $19,749, but it will depend on the program, school, and student housing requirements.

How to Choose a Master’s in Interior Design Program

Choose your area of study

There are several master’s in interior design degrees: Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Fine Arts, or Master of Design. The best degree option will depend on the student’s career goals and specialization interests.

  • Master of Arts: A Master of Arts degree focuses on humanities and liberal arts, with topics often concentrated on art, linguistics, and communications. The curriculum is usually heavily theory-based and provides students with a comprehensive understanding of related topics.
  • Master of Science: A Master of Science degree often provides a technical and mathematical focus, which is best for students with strong logical or mathematical skills who want to enter the architecture or engineering industries.
  • Master of Fine Arts: Most interior design programs are offered as a Master of Fine Arts degree. This degree is best for students who thrive in hands-on learning environments, as it’s often heavily focused on building practical skills. It provides a detailed focus on the industry and often holds more weight for employers.
  • Master of Design: A Master of Design degree explores conceptual and theoretical areas of design, including visual communication, interaction, and the built environment. This type of degree is best for creative students who want to advance their knowledge and skills through project-based research.

Many master’s of interior design programs allow students to tailor their courses toward a particular specialization, such as design and health, interior architecture, sustainable design, emerging technology, and interactive design.

Research schools and programs

Begin the application process by researching schools and programs accredited by a recognized organization. Accreditation means that these institutions meet set educational quality standards. It will assist students in being hired, transferring credits, and receiving financial aid. The most common accreditors include the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Some master’s of interior design programs are also programmatically accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. Programmatic accreditation ensures that the curriculum meets professional standards and will adequately prepare students for their future careers.

You can use a variety of methods to learn about prospective schools and programs, including:

  • Visiting the school in person
  • Exploring their websites
  • Following them on social media
  • Attending open houses

You can also speak with an admissions advisor or program representative to learn more about the school culture and program curriculum.

Prepare for tests and applications

Take note of the admissions deadlines and requirements when exploring programs. Gather all materials and submit them before the deadlines. Master’s in interior design programs will often require you to provide the following:

  • A letter of intent
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A portfolio
  • GRE test scores
  • Proof of English language proficiency

Speak with an admissions counselor before submitting your application to ensure you meet the requirements and have the essential materials.

Select your program

When it’s time to decide, choose the school and program that best aligns with your personal and professional goals. Consider the academic parameters that will affect your success in the program, including full-time or part-time, online or in-person, or synchronous or asynchronous. Also, take note of the school’s location, housing options, program cost, and length.

If you need more guidance choosing a program, contact an academic advisor. They’ll review your options and help you make the best choice for your needs.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Create a budget outlining your annual costs to determine if you can pay for the program alone or require financial assistance. Include tuition, fees, supplies, housing, transportation, and living expenses.

Visit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website and apply for financial aid, including scholarships, grants, work-study funds, and loans. If you’re currently working in the industry, speak with your employer about any tuition assistance benefits they may offer.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Interior Design Degree Programs

Best Master's in Interior Design Degree Programs _2024 badge

Marymount University

Pratt Institute

Boston Architectural College

UK College of Design

Rhode Island School of Design

University of Texas at Austin

Illinois State University

The New School

UF College of Design, Construction and Planning

FIU Interior Architecture

Iowa State University

Chatham University

Savannah College of Art and Design

New York School of Interior Design

GW Corcoran School of the Arts & Design

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Suffolk University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list includes programs that lead to a master’s degree in interior design or interior architecture. It includes both on-campus programs and those that can be completed online, as well as hybrid options that are primarily online but do require some presence on campus.

All of the listed programs are approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Accreditation is a rigorous process that ensures your courses will be up-to-date and relevant. Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from the Council for Interior Design Accreditation.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.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Interior Design Program?

A master’s program in interior design expands on the groundwork knowledge learned in an undergraduate program to teach students theories and design techniques required for advanced careers. Students will graduate with a thorough understanding of digital rendering, computer-aided design, animation techniques, and other industry-related skills. They will also focus on creative development, critical thinking, economic development, theorists, and cultural differences.

In-person, online, and hybrid programs are available. The type of program a student enrolls in will determine the learning methods used. However, most will use a mixture of lectures, exams, labs, projects, field trips, and digital applications. Many programs conclude with a practicum and a detailed project demonstrating the skills they’ve developed in the program.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in interior design program

  • Interior Design Theory and Criticism. Students will examine the theories architects and interior designers use to express and conceptualize their work. They will also discuss the history of interior design and its role in the future.
  • Contemporary Issues in Interior Design. This course covers the critical, practical, and aesthetic issues related to interior design. Students will develop their critical thinking and design problem-solving skills, participate in group research projects, and prepare a presentation for discussion.
  • Environmental Psychology for Interior Design. Students will examine the social, behavioral, cultural, and ecological issues of the built environment that impact human behavior. Key topics include social and cultural issues, gender, health, and well-being.
  • Emerging Interior Materials. This course will explore the emerging materials used in interior design. Students will study these new interior materials’ composition, construction, and application through group discussions, projects, presentations, and field trips.

Master’s in Interior Design Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in interior design degree program?

To apply for a master’s program in interior design, begin by visiting the prospective program’s website and reviewing the application requirements. The required materials will vary by school — however, most will request your undergraduate transcripts, a letter of intent, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and proof of English language proficiency. You will also likely be required to submit a portfolio highlighting your previous work. Before submitting your application, speak with an admissions advisor to review the requirements and admissions process.

How much does a master's in interior design degree cost?

The average annual tuition and fees for a master’s degree in interior design is $19,749. The total amount will vary by school and program and depend on the student’s supplies, housing, transportation, and living expenses. If students enroll in an online or part-time program, they may see this price decrease.

How long does it take to earn a master's in interior design degree?

Most master’s in interior design programs take two years of full-time study, but completion time will depend on the credits required for graduation — most programs consist of 30 to 87 credits. Students who opt for part-time or asynchronous studies will likely take longer to complete the program as they work independently.

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