The Best Interior Design Schools and Interior Design Career Salaries


If you have the passion, the talent and the drive to become an interior designer, you should definitely pursue that goal. Obviously, you can’t just pull out a magic wand and viola – you’re a designer – if only it were that easy. You have to take the necessary steps to get to that point; and if your goal truly is to break into the world of interior design, the first step you need to take is choosing the right interior design schools to apply to.

How to Choose the Right Interior Design School

There are certain features that will endear you to a particular institution. One significant factor might be location- you may want to stay close to home or maybe you want to get as far away from your parents as possible. Another important factor is cost; depending on the type of program you plan to pursue prices can start from $6,000 per semester for a two year degree and go up to $35,000 (or more) for a four year program, as noted by this article.

Although price is an important aspect, things such as scholarships, loans, grants and part time jobs can help with the cost so don’t let that deter you from the school of your dreams. Last but not least, make sure the school is accredited – you definitely don’t want to spend four years in a program that doesn’t actually garner you any respect from employers.

Here are some of the best design Schools in the United States- hopefully at least one of these schools seems like a good fit for you.

1. Pratt Institute- Brooklyn, NY

In 2008, this private school was ranked as the top school for interior design by U.S. News and World Report. Today it stills ranks high on the list of the best interior design schools in the US. Pratt offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and a minor in interior design, and boasts a high level of employment for their students that graduate from the program. For example, 93 percent of the students who graduated from their May 2014 program were employed by January 1, 2015. Their students also do well when applying to grad school – 100 percent of the students from the May 2014 graduating class who applied to graduate schools were accepted. Pratt places a strong emphasis on the creative side of Interior Design, and grooms its students to be on the cutting edge of the design world.

2. California College of the Arts- San Francisco, CA

In 2012 this school was ranked number two by US News as one of the best grad schools for interior design.  Their program, which is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design (BFA).  The faculty boasts leading architects and interior designers who have already made an impact in the industry – there are a number of CCA grads who’ve worked on big projects like museums, retail chains and other corporate projects all over the world.  If finances are tight, CCA offers a range of scholarship and financial opportunities; their website states that over 73 percent of their students receive some of financial aid or scholarships.

3. Savannah College of Art and Design- Savannah, GA

For the fifth consecutive year, SCAD was once again ranked as the number one school for interior design by DesignIntelligence. SCAD offers programs that award Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees. And while the school’s founding campus is located in Savannah, there are also campuses in Atlanta and Hong Kong.  SCAD also offers a convenient e-learning program where courses are accessible 24/7.  The school utilizes cutting edge resources, and the program is highly regarded by industry insiders.

4. Rhode Island School of Design- Providence, RI

Business Insider lists RISD among the 25 best schools for interior design; of the 633 people surveyed, a little over 85 percent said the RISD program is valuable. The school also emerged number four on the DesignIntelligence ranking as one of America’s best design schools 2015. The institution offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Architecture and students can choose from three specializations to include retail design, exhibition design or theater design. A Masters’ program is also available for those who want to pursue graduate studies in this area. RISD aims to arm its students not only with design skills, but with the communication skills and collaborative approach that is necessary when working in the industry.

5. New York School of Interior Design- New York

If you want to be in the big city then this school is an ideal option, and it tends to rank pretty high among the various interior design schools that we looked at.  The school has several options for graduates. There is a one year program where you can acquire a Basic Interior Design Certificate (BID); a two year program for an Associate Certificate  in Applied Science in Interior Design (AAS); A Bachelor of Fine Arts In Interior Design (BFA) or the Bachelor of Arts in History of the Interior and the Decorative Arts (BA).

The school offers flexibility in terms of scheduling so whether it’s full-time, part- time or if online courses are more convenient.  Another feature that will interest prospective students is that the school’s undergraduate programs prepares you to compete in this continuously changing profession by utilizing practical courses, studio classes, and lectures to ensure a well-rounded knowledge of interior design. NYSID stands out from some of the other schools in their list thanks to their emphasis on practicality.

6. Parsons the New School For Design – New York, NY

Parsons is one of the most famous design schools in the world, and for good reason. The interior design programs at Parsons have ranked well consistently in the interior design space. Parsons offers top notch education in both the high level theory and the practical aspects on interior designs. Students also spend a lot of time in the studio. Students can choose from a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, an Associate Certificate or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA).

Students can access extensive studio facilities, computer labs, exhibition facilities, design libraries, as well as photography and imaging labs. The facility also provides residential halls for out- of- towners.

7. Fashion Institute of Technology- NY

Despite being widely known for its fashion program FIT actually has the largest interior design program of its kind in New York City. The institution offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and students work side by side with some of the top graphic designers, architects, and other professionals in the industry.  The school boasts professional level facilities such as model-making shop, lighting laboratory and a design graphics reproduction center.

8. Cornell University, NY

Cornell is the only Ivy League school that offers a program in interior design. Cornell’s interior design program is CIDA accredited and focuses on practicality, and tries to teach the principle of thinking about the effect that spaces can have on humans, rather than just focusing on aesthetic beauty. The program has faculty members who are practicing professionals in the field, and this can help students understand the practical side of the industry. It also obviously doesn’t hurt that students will be attending an Ivy League school. Unlike other schools, Cornell offers a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design rather than a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

9. University of Cincinnati – School of Architecture and Interior Design, Cincinnati,OH

The design program at UC requires a five year Bachelor of Science degree as opposed to the regular four year degree offered by other universities. However this seems to pay off in the end as this report shows that at least 70 percent of their students acquire jobs within three months of graduating. The institution also ranks highly in a number of rankings of the top interior design schools.

Students must complete a total of five semesters which includes two foundation years. From year two onwards the students further develop their abilities with design projects and professional practice work.

10. Drexel University College Of Media Arts And Design- Philadelphia

Drexel tends to fly under the radar, but it offers a unique interior design program. It doesn’t just focus on practical aspects of design, but combines art and art history into the curriculum, which allows students to develop a more well rounded knowledge base. Students learn to explore the technological, environmental, behavioral, and aesthetic facets of interior design within the framework of increasingly complex design tasks. The University offers a Bachelor of Science in design. Their undergraduate program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).

Requirements for Prospective Students

Narrowing down your school of preference is one thing, but getting into that school is your next challenge.  There are some general requirements that you need to keep in mind. The first and most important thing that you should keep in mind is that for most interior design programs, you will need to submit a portfolio of work – and if you want to get into a top school, your portfolio will need to be outstanding. It’s also advisable that you try and actively demonstrate your interest in interior design and design in general. You can do this by joining relevant clubs, or even trying to get involved with design projects in your local community. Anything that you can do to show that you’re passionate and engaged with design will help with your application.

Here’s a video with some great tips about how to prepare your portfolio when applying to interior design schools, as well as a bunch of other useful tips about choosing the right school and applications in general.

Then there’s the standard stuff that you’ll need to do when applying for college – you will need to fill out an application form and pay an application fee. The school will also need academic transcripts from your previous institution along with a portfolio of previous work. Some design schools also require your ACT or SAT scores, GPA ; also if English is not your first language you will have to provide TOEFL or IELTS scores as well. Along with these general requests universities often have their own unique requirements for entry; these may include letters of recommendation, along with the aforementioned portfolio requirements.

Interior Design Salaries and Career Prospects

Here’s a video with tips for people who want to pursue a career in interior design:


The road to a career in interior design will not be an easy one, but if you hard work and apply yourself, it can be a lucrative and fulfilling creative career. A degree in Interior design will open doors to a variety of interesting career prospects.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the mean annual wage for the interior design industry as $54,850; this number varies according to the type of degree you have, the city you choose to work in and your years of experience in the field.  Junior designers who are just leaving college will be lower on the totem pole as it relates to wages – an entry level job in the industry will typically pay about $35,990. However, as you gain experience in the industry, perfect your craft and start to make a name for yourself, you’ll see salaries improve. The top interior designers – those that work with the rich and famous – tend to be compensated extremely well.

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