Your design skills and creative mindset are the most important things you need to succeed as an interior designer. However, you’d need to obtain a license as an interior designer to reach a certain level in your career.
Obtaining a license to operate as an interior designer requires you to earn a degree from one of the best schools for interior design in the US. Once you have your interior design degree, you can apply and write the licensure examination. As a licensed interior designer in the US, you’re open to unlimited opportunities in the field.
This article discusses the best schools for interior design in the US, the opportunities the career presents, and the states with the highest demand for your services. You will also know how much it costs to study interior design in the US and what you can earn as a licensed interior designer.
However, most people mistake interior designers for many other things, so let’s figure out what they actually do.
What do interior designers do?
Interior designers work with their clients’ budgets, needs, and preferences to create safe, beautiful, and functional spaces. They consider many things when setting up the interior of a place: the paint, textiles, furniture, etc.
In the end, what matters to great interior designers is that the needs and preferences of their clients are met. Whether your client needs a minimalist, Scandinavian, traditional, or contemporary space, your duty as an interior designer is to meet those needs.
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Is studying interior design worth it?
The knowledge, skills, connections, and exposure you get from interior design schools make studying the program worth every effort and resource invested.
While you can practice interior design without formal education, the business side of the career should be enough motivation to enroll in an interior design school. Interior design schools in the US equip you with the technical and business skills you need to succeed in the field.
So, is studying interior design worth it? Absolutely, it does. The benefits are too numerous to mention. So, where do you get the best education in interior design in the US? Let’s find out the best schools for interior design in the US.
The best schools for interior design in the US
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a world-class design school with its main campus in Savannah, Georgia. It consistently ranks as the best school for interior design in the US by professional bodies like Design Intelligence and Design Schools Hub.
SCAD offers three interior design degree programs (BFA, MA, and MFA) accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).
SCAD students gain real-life experience from collaborations with the school’s corporate partners: Amazon, Disney, Chick-fil-A, etc. This collaboration is made possible through its in-house collaborative studio called SCADPro.
With campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, SCAD students have a wide range of options to choose from when choosing their internship locations.
Visit the school website to learn more.
With four undergraduate and four graduate design programs, Pratt Institute has one of the most extensive design schools in the US. Its interior design programs, amongst others, have placed it at the top of the list as one of the best schools for design in the US.
The programs at Pratt Institute are designed to give students the most practical experience in the field. They take part in studio classes from their second year to gain collaborative experience. In the third year, students have the option of studying at the Danish International School in Copenhagen, where they engage in study tours.
Pratt’s two interior design degree programs have full accreditation from CIDA. You can visit the school website for more information.
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) offers two interior design degree programs: a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and a Master of Arts (MA) program. It is in Providence, one of the cities with the highest concentration of artists in the US.
RISD designed its programs to be more practical-based than most other design school programs. Since its inception in 1877, RISD has gone on to produce graduates who are not just skilled in their craft but also popular in it. The latest is the four RISD graduates who made it to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.
Visit the school website to learn more about RISD.
Unlike other design schools, the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) focuses solely on interior design programs. Its extensive programs in interior design make it one of the best schools for the program in the US.
NYSID offers CIDA-approved associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs in interior design. However, you may have no intention of acquiring a degree in interior design but wish to obtain a formal education in the field. In that case, you can enroll in one of its certificate programs. NYSID offers its associate and certificate programs in both on-site and online formats.
Visiting the school website is something you’d like to do.
The New School’s Parson School of Design, which came into existence in 1906, is one of the oldest design schools in the US. It ranks as one of the best schools for interior design in the US for several reasons. Students are not just given detailed classroom and studio programs; they’re also given access to New York City’s major firms and showrooms for practical experience.
The Parsons School of Design offers three interior design programs to its students: an associate’s, a bachelor’s, and a master’s degree program.
Visit the school website for more information.
Design Intelligence has consistently ranked the University of Cincinnati as one of the best schools for interior design in the past ten years.
The university offers a 5-year Bachelor of Interior Design program that prepares students for interior design’s practical, theoretical, and business aspects. The program is interlinked with the school’s architecture program, as students from both programs take the same courses in their first three semesters of school.
The school ensures its students acquire the needed practical experience through their cooperative programs.
You can visit the school website to get more information.
From the name, you’d assume the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a fashion-focused school. Though it’s popularly known for its fashion design programs, FIT has consistently produced fantastic interior design graduates for the past 50 years.
FIT offers an associate’s and a bachelor’s program in interior design and ranks as one of the best schools for the program in the US.
At FIT, students are taught to be experts in creating space concepts that meet the contemporary needs of man. In addition, students take up two-semester capstone projects to gain more practical, real-world experience in interior design.
Visit the FIT website to learn more.
Cornell University equips its students with the knowledge and skills to center their designs on solving human problems. Students gain hands-on experience in research and innovation in the interior design field.
Being the only Ivy League school that offers interior design programs, Cornell University’s interior design program is quite competitive. The school offers two interior design programs (a BS and an MA), and both have full accreditation from CIDA.
Click here to visit the school website.
The students at Syracuse University are exposed to a much broader program as their curriculum focuses on environmental and interior design. With the quality of its programs and structure, Syracuse University easily ranks as one of the best schools for interior design in the US.
Design Intelligence ranks Syracuse as one of the “most admired interior design schools in the US.” Its undergraduate and graduate interior design programs have full accreditation from CIDA.
You can visit the school website to find out more.
Drexel University in Philadelphia offers undergraduate and graduate interior design degree programs to its students. Students receive CIDA-accredited BS and MS programs at the end of their education.
The undergraduate degree program at Drexel University is structured to equip students with practical and theoretical interior design knowledge. Students also get the necessary education and resources that prepare them to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.
Visit the school website to learn more.
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York prides itself on its technology-based learning system. SVA wastes no time in immersing its students in its design-firm atmosphere. From their first day in school, students are assigned to their desks and given unlimited access to SVA’s state-of-the-art computers.
At SVA, you’ll learn to integrate current technology into your designs without neglecting the critical fundamentals of drawing and drafting. There’s no wonder why it made the list of the top 11 schools for interior design in the US.
You can visit the school website for more information.
Do I have to earn a degree to be an Interior Designer?
You can become an interior designer through an apprenticeship program. This program gives you on-the-job education and introduces you to the core practical aspects of the job.
However, to be a licensed interior designer in the US, you must earn a degree in the program and pass the NCIDQ examination.
What jobs can I do with an interior design degree?
As a licensed interior designer with either a BFA or an MA, you can work as:
In a movie or art theater, the role of an interior designer cannot be overemphasized. Your job here would be to make sure you set the scene or stage to the needed standard.
Your job will be to design a space with the proper lighting it needs. You have to ensure the place is not excessively bright or too dim.
You can provide design ideas and guidelines to those who need them. As a consultant, your job will be more theoretical than practical.
Your job will be to design aesthetically pleasing spaces that match the needs and demands of your clients.
As an exhibition designer, you’ll work in museums, libraries, art galleries, or even historical sites to ensure the much-needed ambiance is set up.
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How much can I earn as an interior designer?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for interior designers in the US as of 2021 was $60,340.
However, the average annual salary ranges from $30,000 to $100,000, depending on your level and the state where you work.
How do I become a licensed Interior Designer?
Acquire a bachelor’s degree in interior design
A bachelor’s degree program in interior design typically takes four years. You’ll acquire the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to succeed in the field. Ultimately, you’d receive a bachelor of fine arts degree or a bachelor of science in interior design.
Some schools also have programs that prepare you for the NCIDQ licensure examination.
Pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.
The NCIDQ examination is an essential prerequisite for obtaining your interior design license. The NCIDQ examination consists of three different parts: the Fundamentals Exam (IDFX), the Professional Exam (IDPX), and the Practicum Exam (PRAC).
Each section of the exam tests your interior design knowledge and its application to public health, safety, and welfare (HSW).
Apply to jobs or set up your own firm
After you’ve received permission to practice as an interior designer, you can go on to apply for jobs or even set up your own firm.
Can I teach myself interior design?
There are online courses that teach you the fundamentals of interior design. And if you have enough resources and practice projects, you can implement what you learned from the courses and even learn more.
However, to be a licensed interior designer, you’d need to get a degree and pass the NCIDQ exam.
What are the states with the highest demand for interior designers?
Here are the states with the highest demand for interior designers in the US:
- New York
The best interior designers do not just design to make a space beautiful; they ensure public health, safety, and welfare are at the center of their designs. Only the best schools for interior design in the US can prepare you to produce human-centered interior designs.
I hope you’ve learned from this article all you need to know about studying interior design in the US.
Frequently Asked Questions about Schools for Interior Design in the US
The Savannah College of Art and Design has the best interior design program in the US. The programs at SCAD are designed not just to teach you interior design but to introduce you to the business aspect of the craft.
The average tuition for a bachelor’s degree in interior design in the US is $20,250.
You need approximately five to seven years of study and experience to become a licensed or certified interior designer in the US.
It takes at least two years of study to earn an associate’s degree in interior design and four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. With your associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you’re eligible to write the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX).
However, you’d need two years of working experience to write the Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX). The NCIDQ Practicum exam (Prac) also requires a minimum of three years’ work experience.
So, that makes for five to seven years of study and work experience before you can become a certified interior designer in the US.
Math is an essential prerequisite for interior design because almost everything you’d be doing involves measurements and calculations.
While both have different roles in the design industry, it’s important to note that an architect can do the work of an interior designer to an extent. However, an interior designer cannot do the core duties of an architect.