Accredited Online Interior Design Degrees
Students interested in the intersection between design, functionality, and safety in interior spaces might consider a career in interior design. Our list of popular online schools highlights great options for online interior design degrees. Interior designers work with architects, engineers, construction managers, and clients to design spaces. They may be required to read blueprints, in addition to using computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM).
The demand for interior designers is projected to decline 5% in the coming years, so candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the field may be more competitive in the job market. When considering a school, students should take a careful look at accreditation and licensing requirements. The key accrediting agencies relevant to a career in interior design are the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Interior Design Bachelor's Degrees
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|# 1||Savannah College of Art and Design||$38,075||Add Review|
|# 2||Academy of Art University||$23,412||30% (37 reviews)|
|# 3||The Art Institutes||$18,382||21% (14 reviews)|
|# 4||Berkeley College||$26,500||0% (1 review)|
|# 5||Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||$19,670||Add Review|
|# 6||Ohio University-Zanesville Campus||$8,666||Add Review|
Overview of Online Interior Design Degrees
A bachelor's degree in interior design teaches the skills that designers use in their work: sketching, space planning, computer-aided design, and evaluating a space to choose the best lighting and materials. Most degrees consist of 120 credit hours split among general education courses, required major core classes, and interior design electives. These programs are designed to take four years of full-time study but will take longer if students enroll part-time.
Several schools offer online interior design degree programs. Online courses are usually asynchronous, so students can sign in at their convenience to post in discussion threads, watch recorded lectures, and complete assignments and other coursework. But most interior design students will need to complete an in-person internship at a design firm, even if they take all online classes, in order to attain professional experience.
Those who aim to land an entry-level position in this field typically take design classes online or at a traditional college for credit. But if you simply want to learn a bit about the discipline to complement your current profession, then it may make sense to enroll in a certificate program through a community college or vocational design school.
Interior Design Courses
Regardless of whether you choose an online learning format or an on-campus program, most interior design degrees cover many of the same topics and principles. A design education will emphasize aspects including design theory, professional communication skills, and critical thinking within the design industry. We've listed a few examples of online interior design courses that students are likely to encounter.
- Building Codes and Regulations: Enrollees learn to apply their design knowledge to practical building systems. Topics include fire codes, zoning and housing laws and permits, and the integration of plumbing, electrical, and structural systems in commercial and residential spaces. Instructors emphasize federal legal codes and give resources for navigating local municipal regulations.
- Color Theory: This course introduces the color palette, the color wheel, and the ways in which different color combinations affect people psychologically. Students learn the fundamentals of contrast, saturation, and hue, and can apply lessons from their lighting design courses to study light's effect on color in their work.
- Interior Design Portfolio: This is a practicum focused on compiling a sample of a designer's strongest work in print and digital formats. Students learn best practices and tips for letting their personal style shine through. Each enrollee presents their portfolio in several different iterations to practice professional interviewing and presentation skills.
- Design Principles: This introductory class covers how people relate to the spaces around them and how good design improves this relationship. Topics include design practice lessons learned from psychology, interior architecture, and construction and engineering. Students are introduced to computer-aided design and building information modeling as tools to enhance creativity and problem solving.
- Introduction to Sustainable Design: Faculty discuss the technologies and design choices that can make a space more environmentally friendly and efficient. Students learn about the history of sustainable design, recycled and sustainable materials, and LEED — which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Although sustainability is sometimes offered as a degree concentration, its increased emphasis in modern design ensures that an introductory course is required in most online interior design programs.
Accreditation and Licensure for Interior Designers
It's important for prospective online students to choose an accredited school for their degree. Accreditation means that an independent review body has certified the quality of an institution's curricula and faculty members. National and regional accreditors review colleges as a whole, with national accrediting organizations focusing on professional and trade schools and regional accreditors focused on academic institutions. Regional accreditation features more rigorous standards in higher education, so regionally accredited colleges usually only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools.
Interior design students should also enroll in a program accredited by either the Council for Interior Design Accreditation or the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. CIDA provides programmatic accreditation of professionally oriented bachelor's and master's interior design programs. NASAD provides institutional accreditation of colleges and universities that specialize in art and design programs.
Schools accredited by CIDA are the most likely to adequately prepare students for work as interior designers, and degrees from those schools are often the most attractive to a potential employer.
For interior design, programmatic accreditation is about more than prestige: Graduating from a CIDA-approved program is the easiest way to meet the eligibility requirements for certification through the Council for Interior Design Qualification. Earning a certification allows a graduate to use the title "interior designer" in most states, along with the right to do any design work that may be restricted in some states. According to the American Society of Interior Designers, certified professionals earn a median amount of $16,000 more per year. To be eligible to sit for the exam and earn a National Council of Interior Design Qualification certificate (NCIDQ), applicants will need either an associate degree or a bachelor's degree, plus a certain number of completed hours to prove adequate work experience.
Careers in Interior Design
Interior designers earn median salaries of $57,060, which is above the total U.S. median of $41,950. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in the field of interior design are expected to shrink by 5% through 2029, so competition for open positions will become increasingly fierce.
Once interior designers are licensed, they can follow a number of possible career paths. Designers often specialize in certain areas such as residential spaces or commercial buildings, and they can pursue extra certifications for specialties such as kitchens, bathrooms, and healthcare facilities. Most interior designers are employed by either a design or architecture firm, but nearly a quarter of them are self-employed. Companies that provide interior design services will generate clientele for their employees, but self-employed interior designers must network, market themselves, and find new ways to make professional connections.
Most interior designers are employed by a design or architecture firm, but nearly a quarter are self-employed.
Depending on a designer's current workload, a typical day might consist of some of the following activities:
- Meeting with a potential client to discuss project goals and parameters, such as budget and personal requirements.
- Walking a space with the client to pitch initial ideas on how you both envision the space. This is also the time when an interior designer will be able to tell the client whether their ideas match realistic constraints of space, budget, and time.
- Sketching ideas for the space and finalizing sketches in drafting software.
- Presenting sketches to the client and cementing a project timeline, ensuring that both parties are on the same page and satisfied enough to move forward.
- Working out design details such as colors, materials, and finishes for furniture, room accessories, flooring, wall coverings, and lighting.
- Securing construction and building permits if necessary.
- Updating the client on progress.
Specialty Career Paths
There are several specializations that an interior designer can pursue. Although the overall design process may remain the same, each concentration has its own set of standards. Students can begin specializing by taking certain electives during their bachelor's degree, or by pursuing a master's degree later. Some interior design career specialties are below:
Healthcare design: Hospitals and other healthcare spaces tend to be the most complicated building types. Interior designers must consider a number of factors besides aesthetics when arranging the designs for these facilities, including cost effectiveness, sanitation, expandability, accessibility, security, and durability. All of these factors must support treatment functions, such as emergency rooms, inpatient care, and food services. When planning their design strategy, designers in 42 U.S. states are required to adhere to the Guidelines for Design and Construction of Healthcare Facilities.
What's the Difference Between Interior Design and Interior Decorating?
These terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between the two roles. Both interior decorators and designers aim to create aesthetically pleasing and high-functioning interior spaces in residential or commercial settings, but interior decorators achieve this primarily through the arrangement of the furniture and the selection of colors, lighting, artwork, and other accents. Interior designers take this one step further by making structural changes to the space to accomplish their goals before addressing the room's decor. Interior designers may be consulted prior to the construction of a new building, or they may be brought in to redesign an existing building.
What Else Can I Do with an Interior Design Degree?
Although most interior designers devote their time to designing or redesigning interior spaces, some take their careers in related directions. For example, some designers work in the manufacturing end of the design business and create concepts for decor items, such as furniture, light fixtures, or textiles. There are also several highly specialized niches for interior designers, such as exhibition design for museums, galleries, and libraries, or visual merchandising, which refers to developing strategic presentations of merchandise in retail spaces.