If you have a flair for design and a vivid imagination, a Master’s in Interior Design can take you to a range of exciting places. However, it’s not for everyone — this is a field that demands a certain blend of artistic abilities and technical expertise.
Read on to learn about the best interior design schools and programs around, and whether this type of program is right for you.
The Best Master’s in Interior Design Programs
New York School of Interior Design
Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design (MFA1)
The New York School of Interior Design is a private, not-for-profit interior design grad school with the vision to create beautiful and inspiring interior spaces that encourage people to flourish. Its MFA1 program provides comprehensive training in interior design that equips students to formulate, propose, and implement designs that not only have aesthetic value, but are also sustainable and healthy. Bachelor’s degree holders from fields unrelated to design are welcome to apply.
- Duration: 3 years
- Credits: 90
- Program accreditation: Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA)
- Tuition: $1,240 per credit; $18,600 per semester
- Financial aid: Grants, scholarships, work-study, loans
- Acceptance rate: 67.3%
- Location: Manhattan, New York
- Founded: 1916
Chatham University, School of Arts, Science & Business
Master of Interior Architecture (MIA)
Chatham University is a private university that was originally a women’s college. This MIA program has an inclusive approach that covers all elements that influence design, including human behavior patterns and technology, as well as aesthetics.
- Credit-hours: 72 (five terms)
- Program accreditation: Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA)
- Tuition: $1,047 per credit
- Financial aid: Graduate Assistantships
- Acceptance rate: 66%
- Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Founded: 1869
Rhode Island School of Design
Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies: Adaptive Reuse
Rhode Island School of Design is a private non-profit institute and one of the first art schools in the nation. This MDes program focuses on restructuring existing designs with an emphasis on adaptive reuse. It helps students formulate original designs based on research and put forward coherent design propositions.
- Duration 2+ years
- Credits: 75
- Tuition: $55,220
- Financial aid: Fellowships, graduate assistantships, scholarships, loans, work-study
- Acceptance rate: 23.9%
- Location: Providence, Rhode Island
- Founded: 1877
The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, College of Architecture
Master of Science in Architecture: Specialization in Interior Design
The University of Nebraska was chartered as a land-grant university, the flagship institution of the University of Nebraska system, and the oldest university in the state. Its Master of Science in Architecture program aims to integrate professional practice with design research while addressing issues like aging in place, sustainability, health and wellness through a fully online program.
- Duration: 2 or 3 years (Two tracks)
- Hours: 36
- Tuition: $452 per credit hour
- Financial aid: Scholarships, grants, need-based aid
- Acceptance rate: 78%
- Location: Online
- Founded: 1869
Boston Architectural College
Online Master of Science in Interior Architecture (MSIA)
The Boston Architectural College, initially founded as the Boston Architectural Club, has a mission to extend excellent design education to diverse communities. This online MSIA program is fully online and aims to give students a deeper understanding of use of space and the ability to create human-responsive environments.
- Duration: 3 semesters
- Credits: 30
- Tuition: $1,224 per credit
- Financial aid: Scholarships, grants, loans, Veteran aid
- Acceptance rate: 21.1%
- Location: Online
- Founded: 1889
What Can You Do with an Interior Design Master’s Degree?
A Master’s in Interior Design opens up a wide range of job opportunities in various industries, including interior design companies, architectural firms, hotels, the film industry, design studios, and large organizations. You may also work as a consultant or establish your own interior design business.
Here are just some of the roles you can secure with a Master’s in Interior Design with the average salary for each:
Art directors manage the conceptualization and design of various aspects of artistic and promotional projects, working with other creative artists and designers.
Design architects manage architectural projects that have a high emphasis on design elements. They focus on architectural constructions with a higher aesthetic value, such as art installations and statues.
Lighting designers are responsible for designing and implementing complete lighting systems for large architectural and design projects.
Interior designers typically take care of designing the interiors of homes and offices with an emphasis on aesthetics, functionality, and safety.
Besides the above roles, interior design graduates may work in a range of jobs, such as Craft and Fine Artist ($49,285), Kitchen and Bath Designer ($42,596), and Floral Designer ($41,905).
Pros and Cons of a Master’s in Interior Design
A Master’s in Interior Design can be highly beneficial for some people, but it can also have its drawbacks. Here are the drawbacks and advantages of an interior design career.
Interior design is a creative job, and every project has its own challenges. Every day will be different, and you won’t be stuck pushing paper in an office.
Good interior designers are always in design. With some experience and demonstrated talent, you’ll have a good chance of getting hired by a prestigious company.
Since your services can be applied to various sectors, you’ll have the opportunity to work with a range of different types of clients. This makes the work interesting, has excellent networking prospects and enhances your professional profile.
As an interior designer, you often work with new design concepts on every project. At the same time, clients may require you to meet tough deadlines even in the face of different time constraints.
Similar to time restrictions, you may also face budget challenges. You will often need to stick to a tight budget despite competing priorities.
Many interior designers are freelancers, which means that they may need to deal with a number of clients. Some people can find it difficult to deal with so many client demands and restrictions.
Necessary Skills to be a Professional Interior Designer
An interior design degree alone won’t make you a successful professional, even if you study one of the best interior design master’s programs.
There are certain skills and traits that will set you up for success in the industry, such as:
Interior designers should have the ability to do everything creatively and with an aesthetic flair. At the same time, they should be able to master the practical aspects of design, such as functionality and safety.
This is an abstract trait every designer must possess. Designers must be able to visualize something that doesn’t yet exist. You need to be able to build something in your imagination before you build it in brick and mortar.
Designers must also be perfectionists. They must not neglect even minute aspects, because a design is perfect when it is complete in every way, including the details.
Designing involves working with fresh concepts all the time. You often can’t look back to your previous experiences, but need to come up with new solutions to challenges all the time. You, therefore, need the ability to face issues tactically and find a quick, workable solution whenever required.
An interior designer must also be able to manage all aspects of design projects. You also need to have a high level of interpersonal and communication skills, as you will have to explain abstract concepts and pitch clients.
Some Alternatives to Interior Design Majors
You don’t necessarily need an interior design degree to become an interior designer. There are many alternative programs at various universities that have interior design as a major part of the curriculum.
Pursuing one of these programs can also equip you with the necessary knowledge and expertise to become an interior designer. You can consider programs like:
- Interior Architecture
- Theater Design
- Drafting and Design Technology
- Studio Arts
- Fashion Design
- Fine Arts
Requirements for Admission to a Master’s in Interior Design
The main requirement you’ll need to apply for an interior design master’s program is a bachelor’s degree. Preferably, this will be in a design-related field, but many universities will consider applicants with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines.
On the other hand, in some cases, a Bachelor’s in Design is required as well as relevant work experience, especially in online programs. Most programs also ask for academic transcripts, minimum GPA scores specified by the university, and recommendation letters, along with the application and fee.
Master’s in Interior Design FAQs
Is a Master’s in Interior Design worth it?
These days, there is a steady demand for interior designers, with increasing numbers of architectural projects with a focus on aesthetics and artistic values with the help of technology. Therefore, if you have a flair for design, a Master of Interior Design degree could be highly beneficial.
Is it hard to get a job in interior design?
If you have a talent for design and a practical sense of aesthetics and functionality, you won’t find it too hard to find a job as an interior designer. Having said that, you’ll have the best prospects if you combine your master’s degree in interior design with sufficient practical knowledge.
How long are interior design graduate programs?
A Master’s in Interior Design program typically takes two to three years to complete. This will depend on various factors such as program specifications, structure, and whether it is on-campus or online.
Does an interior designer make a lot of money?
An experienced and able interior designer can easily earn a good salary. Depending upon the specific role, remuneration may vary between $40,000 and $70,000. The annual median salary of interior designers was $57,060 in 2020.
Check also: Top Highest Paying Master’s Degrees.
Capable interior design professionals are needed in many industries, and these roles offer excellent pay to the right candidates. The field also offers a vast range of entrepreneurial possibilities – you could become a design consultant and run your own business.
It’s important to critically assess your own abilities, identify your strengths and weaknesses, plan early, and prepare well to get into a reputable Master’s in Interior Design program that’s perfect for you. Good luck with your design dreams!
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.