Best Online Interior Design Degree Programs & Schools
Explore the different types of online interior design degrees and certificates and learn which schools have the best programs. Also, read about possible interior design coursework and how to choose the right program.
Best Online Schools and Programs in Interior Design
There are several factors students should consider when deciding on an online interior design program, including program cost, flexibility, and real-world requirements. Below are the top schools that offer online programs in interior design.
1. University of Nebraska - Lincoln
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019)|
The University of Nebraska - Lincoln's online Master of Science in Architecture with a specialization in interior design degree program is flexible with coursework that can be completed at a time convenient to students. Taught by experienced faculty, classes center on such subjects as women designers, architecture history, and contemporary issues in interior design. This online program requires 36 credits and is designed for interior designers who want additional practical and theoretical experience.
2. Ball State University
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019)|
Ball State University offers an online Master of Science (MS) degree and Master of Arts (MA) degree in interior design. Both programs feature a completely online 2-year fast-track option for students with a bachelor's degree in interior design and a hybrid 3-year option for those without one. In these 33-credit online programs, courses are interactive and include an average of eight students per class. The MS in Interior Design requires a final thesis, while the MA requires a final research or creative project. Both programs focus on social and environmental responsibility interior design.
3. Savannah College of Art and Design
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019)|
Savannah College of Art and Design's online Master of Arts (MA) in Interior Design degree program requires 45 credit hours. Coursework covers such topics as environmental psychology and current issues in interior design. In addition to completing a final research project, students participate in a teaching internship, a field assignment, elective courses, or a collaboration project with an outside partner, such as a micro-housing project. Students also have opportunities to study abroad.
4. Chatham University
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019)|
Chatham University has a 30-credit Master of Science in Interior Architecture (MSIA) degree program that can be completed fully online or as a hybrid program. To apply to this program, students must have a bachelor's degree in interior design or architecture. The Pennsylvania West chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) has designated this online MSIA program as a leader in green and sustainable design. Students can complete this online degree in one year of full-time attendance, and part-time attendance is also available. Chatham University has a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program that allows students to earn course credits when they pass an exam or complete a portfolio.
5. New York School of Interior Design
|Location||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019)||% Receiving Financial Aid|
|New York, NY||$24,834||69%|
The New York School of Interior Design offers several interior design programs, including:
- A basic certificate in interior design
- An Associate in Applied Science in Interior Design degree
- A Master of Professional Studies in Sustainable Interior Environments degree
The certificate program is self-paced, can be attended on a full- or part-time basis, and requires 24 credits with classes on textiles, drafting, and color. The associate degree features similar attendance options and course topics as the certificate but requires 66 credits. The Master of Professional Studies in Sustainable Interior Environments degree requires 30 credits and can also be attended on a full- or part-time basis. The master's degree program has a focus on environmentally friendly design theories and techniques and prepares students for WELL AP and LEED AP credentials.
|Rank||School Name||Location||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019)||% Receiving Financial Aid|
|6||Brenau University||Gainesville, GA||$29,050||98%|
|7||Holmes Community College||Goodman, MS||$3,110||91%|
|8||American River College||Sacramento, CA||$1,104||73%|
|9||Spokane Falls Community College||Spokane, WA||$3,547||61%|
|10||Century College||White Bear Lake, MN||$5,435||75%|
|11||Boston Architectural College||Boston, MA||$21,924||35%|
All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics; tuition based on 2018-2019 school year.
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Overview of Online Interior Design Programs
Online programs in interior design range from non-degree certificate programs to master's degree programs. Below, you can explore different online interior design programs, including degree type, requirements, format, and coursework.
Certificate Programs in Interior Design
Certificate programs in interior design can be completed online or in a hybrid format.
The total number of classes needed to earn a certificate varies by school; however, students can expect to take anywhere from six to ten total classes. Coursework focuses on such interior design topics as:
- Color theory
- Residential interior design
Some certificate programs require a general education course in composition, while others allow students to choose elective courses outside of interior design, such as in graphic design or fashion.
Interior design certificate programs take about 1-2 years to complete, depending on if students attend part or full time. Additionally, some programs allow students to apply the credits they earn during their certificate program to a full associate or bachelor's degree program in interior design.
Associate Degree Programs in Interior Design
Associate-level programs in interior design are designed to give students practical design experience so that they can quickly enter the workforce as assistants. Some associate degree programs are also intended to prepare students to meet the educational and professional requirements needed for state certification.
Online interior design associate degree programs require anywhere from 66-72 total credits. These programs require some general education coursework in composition, history, and the sciences. Students also take interior design courses on:
- Textiles and lighting
- Design process and drafting
- Professional skills for interior designers
Most of these programs offer part- and full-time attendance options and take about two years to complete. Some programs may require a real-world internship within the profession or a field trip that takes place in an interior design showroom.
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Interior Design
Online bachelor's degree programs in interior design usually lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Typically, if attending full-time, BFA in interior design programs take about four years to complete.
These programs could require anywhere from 125-132 total credits. Coursework in BFA programs includes general education classes in art history, the humanities, math, natural science, and English. Students also take a range of interior design-focused classes on such topics as:
- Drafting and 3-D modeling
- Lighting and color design
- Construction and building structures
- Sustainable design
These online programs also require an internship that takes place in a professional interior design setting in addition to a portfolio that presents a student's design style and original design work. Some programs only require a final portfolio, but others require sophomore and junior portfolios as well as a final portfolio. A substantial research and design project may also be required.
Master's Degree Programs in Interior Design
There are several different types of online master's degree programs in interior design, including Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Professional Studies degrees. Examples of interior design master's degrees include:
- Master of Arts in Interior Design
- Master of Science in Interior Design
- Master of Science in Interior Architecture
- Master of Professional Studies in Sustainable Interior Environments
Despite the differences in name, many online master's degree programs in interior design include similar courses in design history and theory. These programs require about 30-36 total credits and require a bachelor's degree in interior design or a related field for admission. Some programs offer part-time attendance, and most programs can be complete in about 1-2 years.
Coursework in master's degree programs in interior design focuses on design topics like environmental psychology and sustainable design and may require general research method classes, statistics classes, and academic writing classes as well. Most online interior design master's programs require a final project, thesis, or creative project.
Choosing the Right Online Interior Design Program
When deciding which online interior design program is right for you, take into account degree cost, program flexibility, and school or program accreditation.
The cost of online programs in interior design depends on the type of program you are attending, its length, and other factors. When deciding on an online program, you want to make sure you are calculating both the tuition price and other extra fees that are added onto your tuition. For example, some schools charge online program fees or technology fees. Additionally, some schools charge out-of-state students more than in-state students or charge different rates for part- and full-time students. Check with your school or program and ask if they can help you understand all the costs involved with earning your degree.
Online associate and bachelor's degree programs in interior design sometimes have real-world requirements, such as an internship. When choosing a program, you want to make sure that you are able to fulfill all your degree requirements. If you are not able to complete an internship, choose a program that makes real-world elements optional.
When deciding between interior design programs, take into account your schedule and how much time you can devote to studying. Not every online program offers both part- and full-time enrollment options, so you want to make sure your chosen program offers flexibility when it comes to attendance.
Online programs also vary by the type of online classes they offer. For example, some programs have online classes that consist of recorded lectures and assignments you can access whenever you want. Other programs may require you to be online for class discussions or lectures at a specific time. Be sure to ask your school or program how online classes are administrated.
When choosing an interior design program, you want to take accreditation into consideration. When a school or program is accredited, it has met independent quality standards set by an outside agency or organization. Graduating from an accredited program could be helpful in meeting professional certification or licensure requirements. Accreditation is a process that includes schools and programs providing documentation and holding site visits.
The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA)
This non-profit agency is dedicated to accrediting professional interior design educational programs at the bachelor's and master's level. For a program to earn CIDA-accreditation, it must meet the following criteria:
- Must include general education coursework
- Must present examples of student work
- Must track student outcomes, graduation rates, and job placement rates
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)
NASAD is an organization that accredits art schools, advocates for arts education, and publishes professional development resources, such as reports and books. To become accredited by NASAD, a school must meet the following criteria:
- Must clearly inform students of tuition and fee information
- Must state student outcomes, admissions, and retention information
- Must have faculty with experience in their fields
- Must have library space, facilities, and equipment for students
What You'll Learn in an Online Interior Design Program
The exact coursework of an interior design program depends on several factors, including the level of program you are attending and your school's general education and core coursework requirements. Below, you can explore common topics that make up the curriculum of interior design degree programs.
This course teaches students the different methods and techniques used in lettering, architectural drafting, and other types of drawing. Some classes solely focus on hand drawing practices, while others focus on computer-assisted drawing practices. In some classes, students learn both. Students might study residential sites and learn how 3-D rendering and layouts work.
Lighting design explores the way that light functions in an interior space. Students learn about lighting theories and how light behaves as well as different lighting colors, materials, and fixtures. Students may learn how to create a lighting plan where they must take into account artificial and natural light.
Interior Architecture History
Courses of this type center on the study of historical periods and the architecture and interior spaces that are representative of those times. Some courses focus on specific time periods, such as the 19th or 20th centuries. These courses examine cultural and social influences on interior architecture, specific designers, art movements of the time, and the furnishings used during certain periods.
Environmental Psychology in Interior Design
Environmental psychology connects the fields of design and psychology by exploring they ways that interior spaces and designed environments affect human behavior. Students learn how cultural factors, gender, and even age influence the way that someone interacts with a space. The goal of this class is to learn how to create comfortable environments, spaces, and structures and enhance the welfare of those residing within them.
A course on textiles examines all types of materials, including fabrics and fibers, as well as their use and history. Students also learn about altering textiles through dyeing and other processes, such as weaving. There may be a focus on residential textiles, how to calculate fabric yardage, and maintenance and code regulations for textiles.
A course on colors includes the study of color theory. This course teaches students how to create and use color schemes in their designs and could include a discussion of paint colors, accent features, floors, window treatments, and more. There is also a focus on the psychological influences of color choice.
Residential Interior Design
This course teaches students how to create design plans for private homes and different kinds of rooms. Students learn how to draft a design plan, come up with a furniture arrangement, choose accessories and lighting, and pick out fabrics. Specific design problems are also studied. At the end of the course, students should be able to present a professional design plan for clients.
Interior Design Career Options
By earning a degree in interior design, you will have the necessary skills to pursue a career as an interior designer. You could also put those design skills to use as an art director or an exhibit designer. Below, you can explore the job duties and salary information for specific interior design careers.
Interior designers create design plans for indoor environments, and their job duties include:
- Working with clients on designs
- Choosing textiles, furniture, lighting, wall and window coverings, and accessories for a space
- Managing the installation of materials and construction of a space
Interior designers sometimes specialize in a single interior space. For example, corporate designers work with businesses and offices to create practical and well-organized workspaces. Kitchen and bath designers concentrate their knowledge in bath fixtures, plumbing, appliances, and other aspects of those spaces.
Interior designers need a bachelor's degree. In some states, you must be licensed in order to officially call yourself an interior designer. To become licensed, you must:
- Have a bachelor's degree in interior design
- Have two years of professional experience
- Pass a state exam
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers earned a median salary of $53,370 as of 2018, and the number of jobs in this field are expected to increase 4% from 2018-2028.
In the motion picture, television, and theatre industries, art directors are responsible for determining the style or feel of sets. Collaborating with directors and working with assistants, art directors develop set concepts and manage a budget.
Art directors need a bachelor's degree in a design or art field and significant experience in their industry. Some in the field decide to achieve an advanced degree, such as Master of Fine Arts, in order to improve and expand their artistic and administrative skills.
Art directors in the movie and video industry earned a median salary of $117,360 as of 2018, and the number of all art director jobs are expected to increase 1% from 2018-2028, per the BLS.
Exhibit designers work in a variety of settings, including in museums and historical sites. The primary duty of an exhibit designer is creating displays for their employer. As such, exhibit designers could be tasked with planning, creating, and fabricating museum exhibits. Specific job duties include working within a budget and timeline and choosing materials, lighting, and props. These professionals typically have a bachelor's degree.
According to the BLS, exhibit designers working in the museum sector earned an average salary of $53,520 in 2018.