Interior Design Degrees: Associate's, Bachelor's & Certification Info

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What will you learn in an interior degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Interior Design: Degrees at a Glance

Interior design is the study of the aesthetic qualities in a space, which can include a professional or personal environment. Specific areas of study can include furniture placement, lighting, colors and floor coverings. While an associate's degree program can help you break into the industry, a 4-year degree is typically required for interior designers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers are expected to see a 19% increase in employment from 2010-2020. This increase is due to a rising expectation among customers for projects to meet specific requirements, such as energy efficiency. Additionally, specialized designers are expected to see a 27% increase in employment over the same time period, according to the BLS.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this Degree For? Individuals interested in studying fundamental interior design concepts or who are preparing to transfer to a bachelor's degree program Individuals interested in becoming licensed interior designers
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) Assistant interior designer ($22,000 - $46,000)** - Assistant interior designer ($22,000 - $46,000)**
- Interior designer ($53,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credit hours of study
- Internship
- Roughly 120 credit hours of study
- Internship
Prerequisites A high school diploma - A high school diploma
- SAT or ACT scores
- Portfolio
Online Availability No Rare

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (Mean annual salary figures for May 2011), **Payscale.com (10th-90th percentile salary range as of December 2012)

Associate's in Interior Design

Associate's degree programs in interior design prepare you for an entry-level position as an assistant or for transferring to a bachelor's degree program. Typically, these programs will cover general education courses as well as design principles and computer design topics. You may also complete an internship in interior design. If you're interested in pursuing a specific field of interior design, you may consider an associate's program that specializes in that area.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can be prepared for transfer to a 4-year interior design program
  • You can study foundational interior design topics, which can prepare you for entry-level positions in the field
  • Internship and studio opportunities are offered

Cons

  • An associate's degree program will not prepare you for licensure
  • Online programs may not be available
  • Associate's programs are not accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation

Courses and Requirements

Interior design courses at the associate's level cover topics that deal with the placement of objects in the physical world and the use of computer design programs. You may also complete studios or an internship for practical experience in the field. Programs typically include general education courses like psychology, speech or communication. Some interior design topics may include:

  • Lighting
  • Colors for interior design
  • Computer-aided design
  • Interior design drafting
  • Design materials

Online Degree Options

As of December 2012, associate's degree programs in interior design were not readily available online. If you do find an online program, be sure to check its accreditation to ensure that it will prepare you for your prospective career. Some online programs in related areas may be available.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you're interested in working in an entry-level position, such as an assistant interior designer, you can stand out by gaining practical experience through an internship. These experiences may also allow you to specialize in a particular area of interior design. Technically, you may want to familiarize yourself with basic design computing concepts, such as 2-D drafting.

Bachelor's in Interior Design

Bachelor's degree programs in interior design prepare aspiring interior designers for professional work in the field. These programs will also prepare you for state licensure which typically requires passing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam and earning at least two years of experience, according to the BLS. Bachelor's degree programs include more advanced coursework and studio experiences than associate's programs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree can help to satisfy requirements for state licensure
  • A bachelor's degree is the industry standard among interior designers
  • You can study more advanced topics than at the associate's degree level

Cons

  • May not replace experience requirements for career advancement opportunities
  • Some programs may require the completion of general education courses at another school
  • Few online programs are offered

Courses and Requirements

Interior design programs can included a wide variety of course topics, including areas in design, architecture, art and criticism. In some cases, these programs may not include general education requirements. Practical experience at this level can be gained through studio and internship experiences. Course topics may include:

  • Computer-aided drafting
  • Environmental design
  • Commercial design
  • Building codes
  • Residential design
  • Lighting
  • Acoustics
  • Project estimation

Online Degree Options

As of December 2012, there were few online interior design programs at the bachelor's degree level. However, the programs that are offered provide flexible scheduling. These programs may require you to complete an online orientation. Similar to associate's programs, you may want to check for accreditation.

Stand Out with This Degree

When enrolling in a bachelor's degree program, you may consider enrolling in a program that the Council for Interior Design Accreditation or the National Kitchen and Bath Association accredits. Accreditation by these organizations may prove to future employers that your education meets industry standards. Voluntary certification can be earned through other professional organizations. You may also consider becoming proficient with computer design software.

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