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Students who graduate with a master’s in interior design can find work with residential or commercial design firms, become design directors or project managers, or even start their own interior design companies. They can pursue careers as exhibition designers, production designers for theater/television/film, visual merchandisers, designers in the healthcare sector, or teachers of interior design at the college/university level. This degree can also be helpful for those working in architecture, graphic design, furniture design, and textile design.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual pay for an interior designer in 2021 was $60,340, while postsecondary teachers made an average of $79,640 per year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for a master’s degree in the 2020-21 academic year was $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private universities. Students who study full-time can typically complete a master’s in interior design in two years, but online programs can often be completed in less time.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Interior Design Program

Choose your area of study

Since a degree in interior design applies to different fields, it’s a good idea to know what you’d like to do after graduation when you start looking for a program.

Look for those schools that allow you to take courses and concentrations that align with your chosen career path. For example, some programs offer specializations in research, architecture, education, commercial or residential design, retail exhibits, lighting, furniture design, business, etc. Other programs include internships in interior design as well as teaching, photography, graphic design, art, and more. With this degree, you can choose a Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Fine Arts.

Research schools and programs

After you’ve narrowed down the list of programs based on your career path, concentrations, and internships, take some time to do some additional research, as there are other factors to consider as well.

  • The university should be accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This is important, as it not only affects the quality of education, but also what financial aid you qualify for, job opportunities after graduation, and what other postsecondary programs you’re eligible for. Additionally, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) evaluates and accredits interior design degree programs in the U.S., confirming that they offer the highest quality education in the field.
  • Check the total cost of the program. This may be a factor in determining which programs will work for you.
  • Online courses are either synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both. Determine your preference. Can you attend live classes and lectures at fixed times, or would you prefer more control over your study schedule?
  • Do you plan to study full- or part-time? Not all schools offer a part-time option.
  • Does the program offer several start dates throughout the year, or does it begin at the same time as on-campus programs?
  • Consider the location of the university. While many programs are available entirely online, others have a hybrid option where students can attend some courses on campus. This would give you opportunities to get better acquainted with your fellow students and instructors as well as get more involved in student clubs and organizations, mentorship programs, on-campus events, and other activities. Even if you plan to study online, the school’s location may be something to consider.

Prepare for tests and applications

Since this is a graduate degree, an entrance exam is usually not needed for enrollment. Most universities, however, require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in interior design or a related field from an accredited college or university. Students must submit their official transcripts with their application to confirm that they have the appropriate degree or coursework and meet minimum GPA requirements.

Other common requirements include your resume, one or more letters of recommendation, a personal statement explaining why you want to earn this degree, and a portfolio showing your previous work. GRE scores may also be required.

Select your program

When selecting a program, carefully consider the research you’ve done, and look at the components of each option. You may not find the “perfect” program, so decide which elements are most important to you. Then, make a list, in order of preference, of the programs you’d like to enroll in and apply to them all. If you receive several letters of acceptance, choose the school that’s highest on your list.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Check what scholarships are offered by the university or other institutions, and research what federal and state loans and grants are available. Also, be sure to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Financing may be available through the university, or you may be able to pay for each course as you go through the program. Some students take advantage of work-study programs offered through the university or federal government, and if none are available and you have room in your schedule, you can work a part-time job to help pay for your degree.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Interior Design Programs

Best Online Master's in Interior Design Degree Programs

University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Savannah College of Art and Design

Ball State University

Brenau University

Chatham University

UCLA Extension

The New School

Boston Architectural College

Goddard College

University of Wisconsin at Stout

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How We Rank Schools

While there are a number of educational paths into interior design, this list focuses on master’s degrees in interior design. Students can choose from different types of degrees, including Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Science (MS), or Master of Arts (MA).

To ensure flexibility, we concentrated on programs delivered online. Some programs have minimal on-campus requirements, while others can be completed through a mixture of online and on-campus classes.

We only included regionally accredited schools as a guarantee that the programs meet the highest standards of quality in secondary education. Most of the degrees have programmatic accreditation through the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), which is another important measure of quality.

Our team reviewed the programs for their coursework, cost, reputation, flexibility, and faculty, and then we gave them an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Interior Design Program?

In an online program for a master’s degree in interior design, students develop both technical and creative skills to create environments that are comfortable, safe, and tailored to specific individual or business needs and preferences. You’ll learn about lighting, traffic flow, acoustics, spatial awareness, materials, and how to best serve the social and psychological needs of those who live or work in different spaces. The program may also offer business courses to assist those who wish to start their own design firms.

Many programs can be taken entirely online, with no on-campus classes required. Students receive course material via an online learning platform such as Moodle, Canvas, or Blackboard. The student portal provides access to the course syllabus, assignments, schedules, reading material, audio-video material, lectures, grades, and more. These platforms also have chats and message boards so students can communicate with fellow students and instructors.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in interior design degree program

  • Environmental psychology. This course explores how factors such as location, colors, textures, window and door placement, and the use of lighting and space affect people physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally and influence their behavior. Best practices and strategies are covered to tailor interior designs to specific fields and facilitate collaboration and innovation.
  • Industry-specific skills. Industries such as education and healthcare have specific needs for interior design, and programs often offer courses that focus on these needs. For example, students may learn how to design exam rooms, waiting rooms, and various areas in hospitals to improve both the mood and productivity of patients and professionals.
  • Design principles and elements. This course teaches students the basic principles of design and serves as a foundation for most other courses in the program. It considers the tools, concepts, colors, textures, and materials needed to bring peace and harmony to a space.
  • History of interior design. Students learn how homes and business spaces have been designed and decorated throughout history. Various trends and movements are covered — both manufacturing and architectural — as well as important figures in the history of interior design. This gives students a deep well from which to draw when they start creating on their own.

Online Master’s Degree in Interior Design Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in interior design degree program?

Most universities require that applicants of this graduate program already have a bachelor’s degree in interior design, architecture, graphic design, or another related field. While admission to campus-based classes may be limited, this is often not the case for online students.

Most interior design programs require that applicants have a GPA of at least 3.0, and transcripts should be submitted along with your resume, letters of recommendation from former professors or mentors, a portfolio of your work, and a personal statement, if required. Those with a lower GPA may be admitted on a per-case basis. In any case, be sure to speak with an admissions counselor before applying.

How much does an online master’s in interior design degree cost?

A master’s in interior design can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000, and there may be additional technology fees for online students. Books and other university services could mean extra costs as well. The tuition is sometimes more for out-of-state students, but this doesn’t always apply to online programs.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in interior design degree?

A master of science or arts in interior design, depending on the school, requires about 60 credits, and most full-time students take two years to complete it. An MFA requires students to focus on a specific discipline, which typically involves more coursework. This extra coursework can include research, essay writing, or hands-on application of things learned in the program. For this reason, an MFA can take up to three years to complete.

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