Interior designers make indoor spaces welcoming, aesthetically pleasing, and safe. In diverse environments like corporate boardrooms, hospitals, and private homes, interior designers apply their expertise to improve interior spaces.
A degree in interior design prepares graduates for careers in an above-average paying field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers make a median salary of over $57,000 per year.
Our list ranks the best online interior design programs to help prospective students find the best fit for their interests, budget, and career goals. This article also introduces common interior design courses, salary data, and scholarships for interior design students.
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Answers to Questions Discussing Interior Design Programs
What kind of jobs can you get with an interior design degree?
Interior design majors work as interior designers, corporate designers, healthcare designers, and sustainability designers. Some also specialize in kitchen and bath design.
Do interior designers get paid well?
Interior designers earn an above-average salary. The median annual salary exceeds $57,000, with the top-paid interior designers making nearly six-figure salaries.
How much does an online interior design degree cost?
Earning an interior design degree online can cost as little as $50 per credit, depending on the school. Thanks to online formats, students can find the most affordable interior design program rather than limiting their search to their local area.
How many years does it take to be an interior designer?
Most interior designers hold a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years. Interior designers can also earn a two-year associate degree or one-year certificate.
Why Get a Degree in Interior Design?
Interior designers improve the functionality and aesthetics of spaces by designing layouts, selecting furnishings, and choosing color schemes. Within interior design, professionals specialize in areas like corporate design, healthcare design, and kitchen design. Sustainable designers improve energy efficiency and sustainability while universal designers make spaces more accessible.
A degree in interior design trains learners in design elements, stylistic choices, and design drafting. Some interior design programs offer an online option, which prioritizes flexibility and convenience. In addition to interior design degrees, many programs feature specialty certificates focusing on areas like sustainability or accessibility.
How Much Does an Interior Design Degree Cost?
The cost for a degree in interior design varies depending on the school and program. In general, two-year colleges charge lower tuition rates than four-year schools, and public institutions cost less than private schools. Many public schools offer tuition discounts for state residents. For example, American River College charges $46 per credit for California residents enrolled in its associate program in interior planning and design. Out-of-state students pay $353 per credit.
Bachelor's programs in interior design typically cost more than associate degrees. At Berkeley College, a private school, interior design majors in the bachelor of fine arts program pay $870 per credit. Online programs may offer tuition discounts for learners.
In addition to tuition costs, interior design majors often pay additional fees for supplies, including drafting software, model making equipment, and drafting materials. These supplies can add several hundred dollars per year to the degree's cost.
How Much Do Interior Design Majors Make?
The salary outlook for interior designers remains strong. Interior designers earn a median annual salary of over $57,000, according to BLS data. Salaries vary depending on location, professional experience, and degree. For example, interior designers typically need a bachelor's degree but those with an advanced degree or additional specialized certificates may earn higher salaries. Top-paid interior designers make almost $98,000 annually.
Industries also influence salaries. Interior designers working for architecture firms earn above-average salaries, while those working in wholesale trade or for furniture stores earn below-average salaries for the industry. Many interior designers also work as self-employed professionals, where earnings often vary.
The highest-paid states for interior designers include Arkansas, the District of Columbia, New York, California, and Massachusetts. Interior designers increase their earning potential with professional certifications or a master's degree in design. A strong portfolio and work experience also helps interior designers earn more.
Courses in Interior Design
A degree in interior design strengthens creative and technical skills. During an interior design program, majors take courses in design elements, materials, and building standards. Learners strengthen their technical abilities with courses in CAD design software and other interior design programs. Many programs offer specialized courses in sustainable design and lighting design, preparing graduates for focused career paths.
In addition to coursework, interior design students complete hands-on projects and build a portfolio. Programs typically encourage learners to pursue an internship to strengthen their professional experience. This section introduces common interior design courses. While every program sets its own curriculum, many include the following options.
Introduction to Interior DesignIn introductory courses, interior design majors learn about the design process, professional standards, and design aesthetics. Learners examine the work of influential interior designers and evaluate design aspects to build their design eye and aesthetic. The course also introduces professional development and design organizations to prepare majors for the workforce.
Design ElementsMajors examine the basic principles of three-dimensional design, including common elements such as shape, pattern, and color. Students build their aesthetic perspective and vocabulary through the coursework, which incorporates hands-on design assignments. Coursework may also include two-dimensional design elements. The course strengthens creative decision-making and interior design problem-solving abilities.
Sustainable DesignSustainable design courses explore environmental approaches to interior spaces. Topics include land use, sustainable materials, and indoor air quality. Students also examine energy efficiency and rating systems to measure sustainability in building projects. Learners complete hands-on projects to strengthen their sustainable design practice. Graduates can pursue LEED certification.
Certifications and Licensure for Interior Design
Interior designers pursue licensure or certification to demonstrate their skills and advance their careers. Some states require registration or licensure to work as an interior designer. Professionals also pursue certifications to show specialized abilities. For example, LEED certification signifies experience in sustainability and green design. Most certifications and licenses require a degree, work experience, and an exam.
In some states, interior designers must register with the state or apply for licensure. Typically, this process requires passing scores on an examination such as the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) Exam. Candidates may need a bachelor's degree and several years of work experience to receive their license.
The NCIDQ offers certifications for candidates with a certificate or degree in interior design. Candidates must also meet work experience requirements. The three-part examination process tests candidates on fundamentals, professional skills, and interactive abilities. The final test uses case studies to assess design skills and judgement.
A LEED credential demonstrates excellence in sustainable design and operations. Interior designers can apply for the LEED green associate or LEED AP with specialty. Candidates should ideally work on LEED-registered projects before applying. After completing a multiple-choice exam, candidates earn their credential.
Scholarships for Interior Design
Interior design majors qualify for multiple scholarships, including prestigious awards offering more than $10,000 in financial aid. Professional associations like the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) offer scholarships for interior design students. In addition to the opportunities listed below, degree-seekers can find scholarships based on their school, state, or career plans.
Scholarships for Interior Design
||Who Can Apply
Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship
||The scholarship supports Asian American students majoring in the arts, including interior design. Applicants must enroll full time at an accredited institution and demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA.
CINTAS Foundation Fellowship
||The CINTAS Foundation offers a scholarship for interior designers, urban designers, and architectural designers. Applicants with Cuban citizenship or lineage qualify for the fellowship.
David Barrett Memorial Scholarship
||Offered by ASID, the award recognizes undergraduate or graduate students who incorporate classical design elements in their work. Applicants submit a transcript, bio, personal statement, letter of recommendation, and portfolio.
Best Online Interior Design Programs 2022
#1 Online Interior Design Degrees 2022
- White Bear Lake, MN
- 2 years
- Online + Campus
Situated in White Bear Lake, Century College is a public postsecondary school. The school's associate programs make learning more accessible. Online learning offers flexible scheduling options. While completing an associate program, learners take foundational coursework and field-specific classes. Students can research the institution's website for program information. The school's advisors, IT support professionals, and other support staff help distance learners meet degree requirements. Associate degree-seekers often complete internships to prepare for entry-level positions.
Graduates of associate programs often secure entry-level positions immediately after earning their degree. Graduates can also pursue bachelor's studies. Students earning an associate degree from the school pay affordable per-credit tuition rates. After accounting for financial aid, learners pay $10,227 on average to attend the school. The cheap two-year interior design degree also helps students enter the workforce quickly.
The school has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Percent Online Enrollment
Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Higher Learning Commission