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||$37,130||Add Review|
|# 2||Academy of Art University||$22,308||29% (35 reviews)|
|# 3||The Art Institutes||$17,982||21% (14 reviews)|
|# 4||Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||$19,020||Add Review|
|# 5||Ohio University-Zanesville Campus||$8,482||Add Review|
Online Interior Design Degree Overview & Career Information
An online associate degree in interior design can be useful for those with or without an undergraduate degree; some programs focus on general education and design classes, while others focus only on professional skills. Students receive an introduction to the major realms of interior design, including retail, residential, hospitality, and workplace design. Along with a work-experience requirements, accredited associate programs can prepare students to sit for the Council of Interior Design Qualification exam.
An online bachelor’s in interior design can provide a more in-depth introduction to the field. In addition to the necessary creative and technical skills, these programs cover the business skills required to become a designer. Courses typically cover building codes, interior design theory, computer-aided design, and communication skills. Many bachelor’s programs include optional specializations in particular design areas, such as sustainable design or historic preservation.
Online master’s degrees in interior design can be used by non-designers to gain the credentials to enter the field; current interior designers can use the program to specialize or expand their skills. Most master’s interior design programs require a written thesis or thesis project in a design area. Possible specializations within the program include architectural framework, bath and kitchen design, healthcare design, or sustainable design. Doctoral interior designer degrees are usually aimed at preparing professionals for teaching interior design education at the university level, or for high-level government or research positions. In these programs, students learn how to conduct interior design research and study peer-reviewed literature.
Certificate programs in interior design introduce students to the basic architecture, design, and art skills required in this field. Interior design certificates are available as undergraduate and graduate programs. Applicants need a high school diploma or bachelor's degree, depending on the level of the certificate. Most programs require about one to two years of coursework and 15-60 credit hours of classes.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Interior Design
The bachelor's interior design degree online program covers the foundational art, design, and architecture skills for developing interior spaces. These programs are four-year degrees and require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED. Though no interior design experience is necessary, some art experience is helpful when applying to more competitive interior design programs.
The bachelor's curriculum in interior design discusses color theory, design theory, the history of design, choosing a theme, utilizing space, and designing for commercial buildings. Most programs encourage students to participate in an internship in a design or architecture firm. Earning a bachelor's degree in interior design will also require a number of classes in general education areas, such as math, science, English, and business communications. Some schools also have foreign language requirements. An interior design department might require art or art history courses to contribute to a student's general creative development.
With a bachelor's degree in interior design, graduates may qualify for entry-level positions in their field. Many designers have the goal of becoming self-employed designers who contract to work on individual projects, in order to exercise control over their schedule and the kinds of jobs they take. Other designers work in specialized design firms, architectural and engineering services, and home furnishing stores. Depending on their state's certification requirements, graduates may have to complete two or more years of professional work before they can become licensed interior designers.
Interior Design Career Overview
Interior design professionals are skilled at making offices, homes, restaurants, retail environments, and myriad other spaces both functional and appealing. Designers often specialize in certain areas such as residential buildings or commercial buildings, and they can also receive professional accreditation for such specialties as kitchens, bathrooms, and healthcare facilities. Most interior designers are either employed by an architecture or design firm, or they're self-employed. When working for a company that offers interior design services, the clientele will be generated by the company, but when working as a sole proprietor, interior designers must network, market themselves, and find new ways to make professional connections. Your reputation will be the key to your success in this industry, so it's imperative that you follow up with clients after you complete each project.
Obviously, every interior design project is unique and has its own set of requirements, but the following steps provide a general idea of how a project might go, from start to finish:
- Meet with a potential client and discuss project goals and parameters, such as budget and personal requirements.
- Look at the space with the client and go over any initial ideas on how you both want the space to look. This is also the time when an interior designer will be able to tell the client whether or not their vision for the space matches realistic constraints of space, budget, and time.
- Next, the interior designer will sketch ideas for the space. They will also use a computer program to finalize the sketches before presenting them to the client.
- Present sketches to the client and go over the time line for the project. Make sure both parties are on the same page and are satisfied enough to move forward. Once plans have been drawn up for a client, interior designers are often responsible for making the following decisions: selecting colors and finishes for furniture and room accessories; choosing appropriate flooring; choosing wall coverings, including paint colors, wallpaper, photographs, and paintings; selecting lighting; and adding any design elements that the client has specified. While working to satisfy their clients, however, interior designers must also take into account construction and building regulations as well as handle business affairs.
- Start the project. Here, the interior designer will need to hire contractors and work closely with the design team to make sure that all of the project elements are being implemented correctly. Interior designers work closely with delivery trucks, installers, repairmen, painters, and many other forms of labor during their projects. Because of this, they need to be good at coordinating with others and keeping a team on track. Project management and communication are big parts of the interior designer's job.
- Visit with the client after the project is complete to make sure he or she is happy with the outcome.
There are several specialized areas of interest that an interior designer can pursue. Although the overall design process may remain the same, each specialty has its own set of standards. Here are some of the concentrations in which you can put your hard-earned designer degree to use:
- Commercial Design: This includes interior design for commercial areas settings such as corporate offices, retail stores, restaurants, and churches. The goal for designers specializing in this field is to arrange designs that will accommodate the employees, members, and customers in these public places. Professionals mainly study aspects such as color, furnishings, and artwork to complement a business and create a welcoming atmosphere. Commercial designers supply and arrange materials such as lighting, desk systems, wallpaper, cabinetry, flooring, and window treatment. Most commercial operations reach out to designers when they are relocating, renovating, or branching out.
- Healthcare Design: Hospitals tend to be the most complicated building types, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences. 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 needs must be met to support treatment functions, such as emergency rooms, inpatient care, food services and more. When planning their design strategy, many designers are required to adhere to the Guidelines for Design and Construction of Healthcare Facilities to ensure the application of best practices. Forty-two states in the United States follow the FGI regulations.
- Residential Design: Residential design focuses on the homes of individuals. Designers in this arena work out specific designs from kitchen and bath to bedroom and closet space. Sun rooms are also a popular emphasis, particularly for residents of states with mild to hot climates. Additionally, clients may desire to have their basement or attic included in the design process. In residential interior design, the design professional and the client usually formulate what is known as a Residential Interior Design Service Agreement. This contract is usually signed by both parties before any work takes place to guarantee everyone has the same idea on what service will be performed. Many designers also join residential interior design associations, such as the Interior Design Society to showcase their skills to potential customers and confirm their level of competency.
Accreditation and Licensing Requirements for Interior Designers
Students should consider their career aspirations and check with their state's regulatory board for their particular licensing requirements before selecting an online interior designer degree program. In addition to your state's licensing requirements, topics to investigate when selecting an online program include the course curriculum, alumni employment and graduation rates, scholarship opportunities, and most importantly, accreditation. In many states, students must earn a Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certificate before they may legally use the title, “interior designer,” or become licensed. In states that require licensure, professionals may still be able to provide interior design services, but they cannot call themselves licensed interior designers.
To be eligible to sit for the exam and earn an NCIDQ certificate, applicants will need either an associate degree or a bachelor's degree, plus a certain number of completed work hours. CIDQ offers five detailed combinations of paths to eligibility on their website. Degrees must be granted by an accrediting agency that has been approved by the US Department of Education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides a list of accredited institutions and accrediting agencies.
Two of the main accrediting agencies for interior design programs in the United States are the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). 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 an interior designer, and degrees from those schools will likely be the most attractive to a potential employer. Students may also choose a regionally accredited interior design program that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
Frequently Asked Questions About Interior Design Degrees
What will I learn in an online interior design program?
Interior design is an interdisciplinary subject, which means the skills required to be a successful interior designer draw on principles from the fields of fine art, architecture, construction, psychology, and information technology. While the exact course requirements, subjects, and level of technicality will vary depending on whether you attend an online undergraduate, graduate, or certificate interior design program, each one will work toward a common goal of helping students develop the creative and technical skills they need to become successful interior designers.
Online interior designer degrees are available through art and design schools, community colleges, vocational schools, and traditional colleges and universities. If you hope to earn a bachelor's degree, it makes sense to take courses through an online school or traditional college for credit. On the other hand, if you simply want to learn a bit about interior design to complement your current profession, then it may make sense to enroll in a certificate program through a community college or vocational school.
Online interior design programs use a few different learning tools to help students master the material. Each school will typically have its own online platform to facilitate learning and enable students to watch video lectures, download assignments, and post questions about the material on class forums. Online video lectures will emphasize design theory and professional practice skills. Many programs require students to use popular computer-aided design software to develop designs. A wide variety of specialization areas exist within the field, so students will have a fair amount of flexibility in terms of what classes they actually take once they complete the core foundational courses.
Here are some examples of courses that may be part of an introduction to the interior design field:
- Building Systems: An understanding of the major components of building construction, such as plumbing, electrical, and structural systems is important for good design.
- Color Theory: In this course, students study the color palette and color wheel and the ways in which different color combinations affect people psychologically.
- Design Principles: This introductory class covers how people relate to the spaces around them and how good design improves this relationship.
- Drawing and Composition: Students will be introduced to abstract and figurative drawing to encourage experimentation and self-expression.
- Elements of Design: This is often a two-part course aimed at developing an aesthetic vocabulary by studying visual aspects like line, shape, color, and rhythm.
- History of Interior Design: This course covers many important movements in interior design, such as English Neoclassicism, the American Federal Period, and Renaissance styles.
- Interior Design Portfolio: The portfolio course teaches students how to put together a sampling of their strongest design work in print and digital formats.
- Kitchen Design: This course covers the traffic pattern, lighting, and construction considerations that designers keep in mind when putting together a functional, beautiful kitchen.
- Lighting Design: Students study different types of illumination and learn how to create lighting plans for residential and commercial spaces.
- Sustainable Design: Sustainable design covers the many technologies and design decisions that can make a space more environmentally-friendly and efficient.
Advanced courses in an interior designer degree program will include more technical subjects, such as computer-aided drafting (CAD) or other software used for visualization. A comprehensive interior designer degree will also include coursework that directly prepares you for the field, including an introduction to professional etiquette, business structures in the design world, and common practices for working with clients and colleagues. A course in visualization and presentation will help students learn to communicate their ideas, or a course about professional practice will discuss different career specializations in the field, professional associations and networks, ethics and standards, and contractual obligations.
What's the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between the two roles. Both interior decorators and interior designers are concerned with creating aesthetically pleasing and high-functioning interior spaces in residential or commercial settings. Interior decorators achieve this primarily through the arrangement of the furniture and the selection of colors, lighting, artwork, and other accents. Interior designers, on the other hand, 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.
Besides designing residential and commerical interiors, what can I do with a degree in interior design?
While most interior designers devote their time to designing or redesigning interior spaces, some take their careers in related directions. For example, some interior designers specialize in designing specific spaces, often kitchens and bathrooms, which can be very complex and require a multitude of important design considerations. Other designers move into the manufacturing end of the design business by designing 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.
How much can I earn as an interior designer?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2019, the median annual wage for interior designers with bachelor's degrees was $56,040, with the highest-paid designers earning more than $95,000 per year. Jobs in this field are expected to grow at a rate of 4% through 2028, which is standard for most careers in the U.S.