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Online Master’s Programs in Interior Design

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Updated on: 11/13/2018

Interior design melds style, art, psychology, and architecture into one exciting career choice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers earned an average salary of $51,500 in 2017, with the upper 10% of professionals earning $93,780 per year. Working professionals who earn a master’s in interior design online have the potential to use their creativity and education to earn a healthy salary.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Interior Design Program?

While each program differs in curriculum and learning goals, students can expect an interior design program to cover design, organization, billing practices, accessibility considerations, building codes, and architectural blueprints. Graduates are prepared for a career designing homes or industrial spaces. The typical master’s program in interior design takes two to three years to complete, usually about 33 to 45 credits.

Online programs are an excellent option for working professionals, which allow students to work at their own pace with flexible course options.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in interior design program?

Though most interior design programs require a certain amount of generalized coursework, available specializations and electives vary by school. Before selecting a program, research the course catalogue. The following five courses are a sample curriculum.

Environmental Psychology

Environmental psychology studies how humans react to their surroundings. In this class, students examine the impact of environment on behavior and look at building characteristics such as size, plans, and development. Students learn to evaluate different types of structures.

Professional Design Practice

This course introduces students to business practices. The coursework covers topics like billing, entrepreneurship, accounting, and purchasing products. Students delve into possible career paths, including certifications and examinations in the field.

Color and Light in Interior Design

Students learn about color palettes in different spaces and lighting arrangements. Learners examine color errors and tools, and work with color swatches, fabric samples, and paint chips. Coursework also covers windows, lighting, and other fixtures.

History of Interiors and Designed Objects

This class merges historical and current design objectives. Students analyze historical and developmental design principles and decorations from the eighteenth century to the modern day, touching on furnishings and room arrangements. The class provides a global and timely context to the field of design.

Contemporary Issues in Interior Design

This course addresses potential problems that may arise in a professional career. Learners examine practical and aesthetic issues of modern architecture and design. Classwork involves active problem-solving and developing analytical solutions.

What exams or projects should I expect?

Many interior design programs require a thesis or capstone project. Research projects aim to expand student’s professional skill sets. Projects can often be used in professional portfolios. For example, an interior design master’s student might write a thesis paper on problems in interior design. Another program may require students to prepare an original exhibition showcasing designs and including supportive literature.

What elective courses are available in a master’s in interior design program?

Many master’s in interior design online programs offer specialized coursework for a specific career path. Concentrations can focus on unique environments or design components. While elective offerings depend on the school, three sample courses are listed below.

Healthcare Facility Design

This speciality course is ideal for learners who want to work at the intersection of healthcare and design. Healthcare facility design prioritizes safety, accessibility, and practicality. Students study health facilities and the impact design environments have on the wellbeing and behavior of patients and staff.

Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD)

With new technology, interior design professionals are able to design and visualize spaces before walking into a room. Students learn to use CAD and create prototypes for clients in this course.

Environmental Technology

An elective course on environmental technologies and applications in interior design combines design with sustainability and preservation. Learners analyze environmental management through a review of green buildings, solar energy, material usage, and mechanical systems.

What Can I Do With a Master’s in Interior Design Degree?

Earning a master’s degree in interior design can help prepare learners for employment in speciality fields. Graduates can find employment in interior design positions, or pursue additional training or certifications. The list below outlines five occupations that master’s in interior design graduates may choose to pursue, though earning a degree does not guarantee immediate eligibility for these roles.

Interior Designer

Interior designers have multiple roles, from decorating and furnishing spaces to ensuring a buildings safety. Designers focus on the aesthetics of buildings, like color schemes, lighting, art, decoration, and layout. Those who develop and design new buildings work with blueprints and building schematics to outline functional elements, like electrical layouts and accessibility.

Architect

Architect’s design, develop, and supervise the creation of new structures. They must complete a bachelor’s degree, an internship, and pass a registration exam. Many master’s programs offer a combination of architecture and interior design studies. This advanced education prepares students for specialized employment and managerial positions where they can develop innovative and functional structures.

Industrial Designer

Industrial designers develop products for daily use, including cars, toys, furniture, and housewares. Designers who pursue a master’s in interior design have a specialized education. They can focus on the development of furniture or home appliances.

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects specialize in the design of outdoor spaces, such as parks and private gardens. They work with clients to prepare and implement plans and a budget. Just as interior designers work to make indoor spaces accessible and functional, landscape architects make outdoor spaces attractive and practical. A master’s degree in interior design teaches students foundational skills through classes like environmental psychology.

Art Director

As a managerial position, art directors oversee the design and production of visual content. They produce imagery for television, websites, magazines, or games. Art directors have an eye for space and function, and excel in a supervisory role. An art director who earned their master’s degree in interior design can direct the design and documentation of movie sets, interior design photoshoots, or furniture and home furnishing sites.

Professional organizations provide opportunities for students and recent graduates to gain exposure to the field. Professional organizations grant members access to networking opportunities, continuing education resources, and industry recognition. Three major professional organizations for interior designers are listed below.

The International Interior Design Association

IIDA is the global branch of the Commercial Interior Design Association. IIDA focuses on supporting more than 15,000 members with educational opportunities, community outreach, professional networking, and accreditation resources. IIDA encourages members to develop expertise, connect with students and professionals, and ensure health and safety in design.

American Society of Interior Designers

ASID promotes sustainable, accessible, and human-centric design that positively impacts people. ASID’s members gain access to a collaborative team that emphasizes advocacy, ethical practice, professional experience, continuing education, and evidence-based research.

Interior Design Society

IDS focuses on the residential interior design industry. It highlights four core values: professionalism, community, influence, and growth. IDS membership demonstrates an interior designer’s commitment to ethics. Members can enter award programs and be featured on the IDS website and social media. Membership provides networking opportunities, continuing education credits, and discounted rates on professional certifications.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Interior Design?

Depending on each student’s professional aspirations, earning a master’s degree in interior design online prepares graduates to enter their ideal career. The table below shows salary ranges and growth rates of popular careers. While an advanced degree often leads to specialized opportunities and an increased salary, students may need to pursue advanced certifications or additional training for some of the career paths listed below.

Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Interior Designer Less than $27,240 $51,500 More than $93,780 +4%
Architect Less than $47,480 $78,470 More than $134,610 +4%
Industrial Designer Less than $36,430 $65,970 More than $106,950 +4%
Landscape Architect Less than $40,480 $65,760 More than $108,470 +6%
Art Director Less than $51,130 $92,500 More than $170,230 +5%

Source: BLS

BLS projects an average growth rate of 7% for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. Interior design is heavily dependent on new construction; thus when construction slows down, designers experience a drop in their job prospects. As a focus on eco-friendly designs, accessible layouts, and new renovations increases; however, a resurgence in employment may occur.

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, earning a master’s degree in a subject similar to interior design, like architecture, prepares graduates for a more lucrative career than a bachelor’s. PayScale indicates that the median salary for a professional with a master’s in interior design is $51,000, as opposed to $40,000 for those with only an undergraduate degree. Regardless of the specific career path a student chooses, an advanced degree leads to increased earnings.

Online Master’s in Interior Design Program Accreditation

As you begin researching schools and interior design programs, check each school’s accreditation status. Accreditation means a school or program meets or exceeds national standards. Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the Department of Education recognize both national and regional accrediting agencies. National accreditation, as awarded by the Higher Education Council, is generally for technical or vocational schools. Regional accreditation is more highly regarded, and includes the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Interior design programs can receive regional and national accreditation.

Students should also seek programmatic accreditation when researching programs. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation is approved by CHEA and focuses specifically on accrediting postsecondary interior design programs. Programmatic accreditation means a degree prepares students for professional careers and provides sufficient education for employment or certifications.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Interior Design Degree

Paying for a master’s in interior design online program can be a significant financial investment. Many options exist that can assist students with costs, including federal student aid and scholarship opportunities for graduate students. An online master’s program allows learners to continue working while attending school, providing extra financial stability.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    Learners who need additional financing should start by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. Eligible students may qualify for low-interest loans or grants that do not need to be paid back. Federal student aid is also available to graduate students.

  • Scholarships from Professional Organizations

    Many professional organizations offer scholarships for graduate-level students. These range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. For example, the American Society of Interior Designers offers a $4,000 Legacy Scholarship for Graduate Students, which is awarded based on academic achievement and a personal statement.

  • Program Scholarships

    Many master’s programs in interior design offer degree-specific scholarships. For example, the University of Nebraska offers a master’s degree in architecture with a focus in interior design. Incoming students can apply for the alumni scholarship fund through the architecture program.

  • Scholarships by Demographic

    Some scholarships are based on a student’s demographics or personal traits. For instance, the Network of Executive Women in Hospitality offers scholarships to students in hospitality courses, including interior design. The NEWH San Francisco Bay Area Scholarship awards up to $10,000 to students that meet location, program, and academic requirements.