Interior Decorating Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an interior decorating or design degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Interior Decorating: Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

It's possible to study interior decorating at the associate degree level, although programs are rare. While these programs will not prepare you for interior design careers, you'll receive an elementary exposure to many of the same decorating and design concepts. These concepts include analyzing the aesthetic and practical decisions behind how a room is decorated, creating a space that's pleasing to the eye and decorating for safety.

Bachelor's degrees in interior decorating aren't available. Instead, you can pursue a bachelor's degree in interior design where you'll study both the creative and the technical components of the field. You'll also learn about topics such as environmental sustainability, drafting fundamentals and the history of furnishings. No career data is available on interior decorating, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected a rise in interior design jobs from 2010 to 2020. The bureau also stated that interior designers typically need a bachelor's degree to get started as well as state licensure.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals looking to become interior decorators People interested in becoming licensed interior designers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) Interior decorator ($11.67-$73.19 per hour)** -Interior designer ($53,000)*
-Set designer ($46,000)***
Time to Completion 2 years or less full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements Some programs may feature an internship Many programs feature an internship or senior year design project. Some programs feature both.
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Not at this time Very rare

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **PayScale.com (July 2012 range from the 10th to 90th percentile), ***Salary.com (July 2012 median figures).

Associate Degree in Interior Decorating

In this program, you'll learn how to plan and decorate a wide range of interior spaces. You'll study decorating and design concepts such as color coordination, furniture design and the science of retail sales and visual merchandising. You'll most likely spend some of your academic time in a computer lab, working with computer-aided design software.

Programs may feature internship opportunities, where you can study and work in an actual interior decorating environment for course credit. If you plan to eventually pursue a 4-year design degree, make sure that the institution your attending has credits that are transferable.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can finish your education in two years or less
  • These programs can be found at community colleges, which feature lower tuition that most state or 4-year schools
  • After completing this type of program, you'll be positioned to pursue a bachelor's degree in interior design or another design field

Cons

  • You'll need a bachelor's degree for most interior design positions
  • The program may not prepare you for many other careers
  • If you do live in a state that accepts associate degrees for interior design positions, you'll likely be competing with candidates who have more education

Common Courses and Requirements

There are usually a small amount of academic requirements outside the core interior decorating courses. These include humanities electives such as English composition or public speaking. Some programs offer a 2-year diploma course for those who already have a college degree in another field but are looking to break into interior design. In these programs, you'll take just the core courses with no other course requirements. Below are some of the course topics:

  • Interior materials
  • Furniture styles
  • Textiles
  • Retailing

Online Degree Options

Online associate degree programs in interior decorating are extremely rare. While there are a few degree programs offered, they are usually at for-profit schools that aren't accredited. Remember when researching schools that you'll want to select a program that's recognized by a professional organization, such as the Certified Interior Decorators International (CID). You'll also want a program that's recognized by 4-year schools so that you can transfer your credits should you want to continue your education.

Stand Out with This Degree

One avenue for standing out with your degree is to pursue voluntary industry certification. The CID offers a Certified Interior Decorator designation, which doesn't require any educational standards. Licensure isn't required, but the CID noted that some states may request an occupational license to work. Since technology plays a part in home decorating, students can build their computer skills to remain competitive. Classes in drawing and computer assisted design can help build a decorator's skills when consulting with clients.

Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design

These programs generally feature an interdisciplinary curriculum, meaning you'll take courses not only in design but also in art, psychology, the liberal arts and graphic communication. Some of your academic time will be spent in design labs, using computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to prepare drawings, floor plans and other documents. You'll also take science and math courses, such as engineering physics, algebra and pre-calculus. Some programs require applicants to take a year of interior design related courses before being admitted to the design program itself. Your grades and performance in these courses then determines the likelihood of being admitted to the program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • After completing the program, you'll be eligible to pursue interior design licensure
  • Since interior designers are needed in a range of industries, you'll be able to apply for jobs all across the country
  • Many programs require an internship, which should provide valuable professional experience

Cons

  • Many programs feature a limited class size, making admission competitive
  • Average job growth of only 19% from 2010-2010.*
  • Doesn't prepare you for teaching interior design at the college level

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

Along with your core interior design courses, you'll most likely have a senior design project where you'll create and develop a solution to a particular design problem. Your class time will consist of traditional lectures along with time spent in a computer lab, mastering the design software you'll use on the job. You could study topics like the following:

  • Modern design
  • History of architecture
  • Design ethics
  • Building technology

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degrees in interior design exist but are rare. According to the American Society of Interior Designers, there are only five online programs in the United States that satisfy the organization's education requirements. When researching your desired institutions and programs, keep in mind the importance of accreditation to your future educational and career goals.

Stand Out with This Degree

One way to help yourself move forward while pursuing this degree is with an internship. Most of these programs will feature an internship as a degree requirement. Take a good look at your career and educational goals. Most likely, there will be certain design skills that you want to accentuate and develop. Make sure you pick the internship that will enhance your portfolio, increase your knowledge base and help you land the job you want.

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