Creating Interiors that Work: Interior Design Degree

Many people confuse interior decorators and interior designers, but the two professions have a very different focus. Interior designers need to understand color, furnishing and lighting, just as interior decorators do, but the interior designer’s expertise goes well beyond creating a visually appealing environment.

Interior designers plan the physical layout of a building, ensuring that space is safe, efficient and suitable for its intended purposes. Interior designers often create drawings or models of the space to demonstrate the look and feel of the finished space, and may oversee construction and remodeling of a space. Interior designers work with architects, builders, museums, film studios, corporations, private clients and in many other areas. Interior designers may work for large or small construction and architecture firms, or they may be self-employed freelancers. The opportunities in this field are nearly limitless since almost every building can benefit from the experienced hand of an accomplished interior designer.

Interior Design careers appeal to people who enjoy the practical aspects of engineering or architecture but who also have a strong aesthetic sensibility.

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Interior Design Degree Information

Many schools offer programs in Interior Design, and you can earn credentials ranging from a certificate to an Associates’, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. If you want to work on complex projects, you should know that most employers consider a bachelor’s degree as the minimum acceptable credential for an Interior Designer. If you already have a degree in a related field such as Engineering or Art, you may be able to supplement that with a certificate program that rounds out your education. If you choose freelance interior design, a lack of academic credentials may not prevent you from opening your business, but you should expect clients to ask about your educational qualifications.

Topics Covered In An Online Interior Design Curriculum

You should expect to take courses in computer-aided design (CAD), drawing, drafting, building codes, traditional and digital art techniques, perspective and possibly photography and modeling. If you can, take a few accounting and budget management courses.

Earning a Degree Online

Many excellent schools offer programs in Interior Design in a traditional campus format. Both online and traditional format schools offer the same training and quality of education, so you can choose whichever educational venue that best meets your needs.

Online education is a great choice if you have already started your career and want to branch out, or if you live very far away from schools offering the program you need. Before you commit to a program, just make sure that the school you are considering is accredited.


A bachelor’s degree is the minimum expected qualification for high paying Interior designer jobs in the automotive or engineering field. You will study many forms of design, and be expected to be able to create architectural or drafting drawings of projects. Be sure to balance your electives to cover both the aesthetic and practical subjects you will need to excel in this field.


With a master’s in Interior design and a few years of practical experience, you can expect to lead teams of designers on larger projects. Your master’s program will lead you to a deeper understanding of the principles of interior design and prepare you to take on complex projects. You may also choose to get your master’s in Interior design if your undergraduate degree is in a related discipline but you need more concentration on either the practical or aesthetic aspects.

Further Education

There are several schools that offer a PhD in Interior Design, and a few offer online or blended programs as well as traditional on campus programs.


When studying for a degree in interior design, you will be required to take courses in both digital and traditional art techniques. You may also find Computer Aided design, or CAD courses on the curriculum. In some instances, you can specialize in one aspect of interior design, such as offices or bathrooms. In that case, you would be expected to take courses that concentrate on that area. You will also be required to have a though understanding of budgeting and project management, color theory, space planning, lighting and building codes.

Career Opportunities

According to US Government Bureau of Labor Statistics careers in this field are projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Many Interior designers choose to work at large engineering or architecture firms, while others choose to freelance. In either case, you may be required to obtain certification in your state. The National Council For Interior design Qualification offers certification exams several times a year. You can check here for more information on the exam process. Your state may have additional certification requirements.

Earning Potential

The average salary for interior designers is about $56,040, but top earners bring in over $95,000. The highest salaries are found at architectural or engineering firms, and automotive manufacturers. The automotive industry employs the greatest number of interior designers.

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Interior Design FAQ

Do I Need a Degree to Be an Interior Designer?

Most states do not require a license to work as an interior designer, with only three states; DC, Florida and Nevada requiring mandatory licensure. Getting the required licensure does however the possibility of getting placed on a State list of Interior Designers. However, if you wish to gain an entry-level job in the industry, a bachelor's degree is recommended. Students who successfully attain a certificate or associate's degree in interior design will usually be able to land a position as an assistant. Those with a bachelor's degree may be able to receive an apprenticeship at a formal design firm.

What Does It Take to Receive a License in Interior Design?

In 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the National Council holds a licensing exam for Interior Design Qualification. Applicants must have at least six years of combined education and work experience in the field of interior design to qualify for the exam. At least two years of that total must be postsecondary education in interior design. By successfully passing the exam, candidates will receive licensing from the state. Upon obtaining a license, students must continue their education in order to maintain it.

What Can I Do with an Interior Design Degree?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, projected job growth for interior design jobs is 19 percent through 2016, which is nearly double the national average. This is due to the recent popularity of home renovation television programming and the fact that many homeowners have experienced recent increases in home equity. Interior designers have the decision of working for a professional design firm or as a self-employed freelancer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor also reports that approximately 26 percent of all working interior designers are self-employed.

What Topics Are Covered in an Online Interior Design Degree Program?

Online interior design degree programs are nearly identical to their brick and mortar counterparts, with the exception that all of the learning takes place at home, in your free time. Program curriculum varies per the institution offering the programs, but one can expect at the minimum to learn the following topics: - Color and Fabrics - Computer-Aided Design (CAD) - Furniture Design - Architecture - Ergonomics - Spatial Planning and Perspective - Drawing - Ethics and Psychology

Who Is the Ideal Candidate for Online Interior Design Degree Program?

The ideal interior design student has a love for maximizing the interior look and function of a room. He or she must be creative, imaginative and have the ability to adjust to last minute changes. One should be able to work independently and under pressure. Since fashion is an area that changes often, it is important to stay up-to-date by constantly being a student of the art. In addition, for the self-employed designer, it is vital to be a motivated self-starter and have a basic understanding of how to run a business.

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