Once you’ve designed the architectural structure of a building and constructed it, ensuring that it is functional and appealing is the next step and potentially the most important. Urban development, architecture, masonry and interior design all go hand-in-hand. Having the right eye to pick the color, style and position of furniture and other decor is what interior design is all about. If you’re interested in a career that allows you to pull a place together and stand out, read on for how you can learn more about studying Interior Design in the U.S.
Skip to Sections:Academic Routes Technical Routes Resources
Jump to:2-Year Degree 4-Year Degree Beyond a 4-Year Degree
To work in interior design, you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. However, you can still begin your career in interior design with a 2-year degree. Because interior design is similar to urban development, architecture, and masonry, the pathways may look similar. A common 2-year program to help you get started in interior design can be architectural drawing and design. Entry level careers with a 2-year degree can include architectural drafter. These careers allow you to begin a career in this field with little to no experience and/or credential. You can learn about more careers that require little to no experience in the Technical Routes section.
Some schools have career maps to show you how you can progress from studying to working at the highest level in that career field. Here is a career map for design & pre-construction:
Some employers require you to have a bachelor’ sdegree in interior design to work for them. Courses you’ll find in an interior design major can inlcude history of interior design, introduction to architectural interiors, interior design communication systems, design fundamentals, graphics techniques, furniture design, construction documents, interior finishes & materials, computer applications in 3D design, interior lighting, and professional practice of interior design. You may also need to take on an internship or field experience to get hands-on professional experience in architectural and interior design offices. Similar programs that can also help you gain experience and lead to a career in interior design can include graphic arts with a concentration in graphic design, architecture, and theatre with a concentration in design & technology.
A very important course in interior design is computer-aided design (CAD), a drafting software that can help you design blueprints and building drafts. This is commonly used among engineers and architects as well. Using this as an interior designer can help you draft layouts on your computer rather than by hand and helps making sharing these plans with others much easier. Careers in the same field that can are similar and can lead to a career in interior design include graphic designer, building construction manager, architect, theatre set designer, and art director. These are careers you can read about in previous blog posts: Architecture in the U.S., Urban Development in the U.S., and Graphic Design in the U.S.
Beyond a 4-Year Degree
Having a master’s degree or doctorate in interior design is not necessary unless you’re looking to take on a higher-level role in your current job, want to start your own interior design firm, want to do independent research, or want to teach. With a degree beyond a bachelor’s degree, you can advance your career as an interior designer, architect, or art director. Examples of courses in some of these programs can include graduate seminars in art history and visual arts, materials & methods of construction, architectural design, design graphics, history of design, digital media, and advanced construction documents. Courses in a master’s degree program will also include physics, trigonometry, and research methods. Advanced degrees can provide opportunities for internships, independent studies, and practicums.
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The following are technical routes you can take to achieve a career in interior design:
Jump to:Apprenticeships & Internships Vocational Training
Apprenticeships & Internships
Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training and education while you work. This can look like working or volunteering with little experience but being trained to improve your skills. Not only are you learning the necessary job skills, but also the demands, hours, ways to interact with the public, procedures, and problems that usually arise on the job. This is an all-encompassing experience. Apprenticeship and internship opportunities in interior design can be found through internet searches, networking, or through your school. These may exist at interior design firms.
If there is a business, organization, or person whose work interests you, ask them for the opportunity to intern or shadow them to learn more about the field and career. This is a great way to show your interest in the field and secure future opportunities to gain experience.
There are several occupations in the construction field that do not require a degree that would allow you to get a start in interior design. These include carpenters, floral designers (e.g. floral artists & decorators), craft and fine artists (e.g. illustrators, calligraphers, comic artists, cartoonists, furniture makers, sculptors), painter helper, or construction laborers. These careers do not require any degrees but will require hands-on experience to learn the trade. They can also lead to high-paying opportunities from meeting the demands of the economy.
Try not to decline unpaid opportunities especially if you have no experience. Eventually, you may become a paid worker. Through volunteering, you are gaining valuable hands-on experience that can be recorded on your résumé/CV, and you are building a network that you can lean on once you’ve elevated in your career. Ask different departments on campus about job shadowing, internship, or volunteer opportunities on campus or in the surrounding community.
You can review the Minnesota State CAREERwise website to explore careers similar to Interior Design in the Architecture & Construction and Arts, A/V Technology and Communications career clusters. Here are more resources to learn more about careers in Interior Design:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Interior Designers | Similar Occupations
- Professional Associations: American Lighting Association | American Society of Interior Designers | Interior Design Society | Interior Designers of Canada | International Association of Lighting Designers | International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI) | International Interior Design Association (IIDA) | National Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) | United in Design
- Publications: Architectural Digest | Wallpaper | Elle Decor | Dwell | Interior Design
Check with your institution of interest to find out more about their admissions application, program requirements, and the best way to map out your future for studying interior design.
Unsure about what Interior Design is? Read our explanatory post here.