While a formal education is not a requirement, most interior design firms prefer designers to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree offers a more robust body of courses related to the artistic, technical, and business skills needed to be a well-versed interior designer.
The first step towards picking a top interior design program is to ensure it has the proper accreditation. Programs accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) willingly place themselves before the scrutiny of Council volunteers to guarantee that students receive an education that will serve them as students and prepare them for future professional growth.
Students enrolled in an accredited interior design program can be confident that they will be prepared for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ exam) and meet the quality standards known by the profession.
- 1 10. Drexel University
- 2 9. Syracuse University
- 3 8. Cornell University
- 4 7. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)
- 5 6. University of Cincinnati
- 6 5. Parsons The New School for Design
- 7 4. New York School of Interior Design
- 8 3. Rhode Island School of Design
- 9 2. Pratt Institute
- 10 1. Savannah College of Art and Design
- 11 Related
Drexel’s interior design program combines the study of interior design with the study of art and art history. Students explore the behavioral, technical, environmental, and aesthetic aspects of interior design within the framework of complex design projects.
Drexel’s Westphal College provides an impressive range of degree options; 19 courses in the undergraduate program alone. Building on a solid foundation of visual studies, Westphal encourages a sense of experimentation and expansion of visual horizons.
Drexel also highlights sustainable practices as essential to contemporary design and offers a minor in Sustainability in the Built Environment. There are opportunities to study abroad, with programs in London and Prague, seven-week studios in Denmark, and short tours to Barcelona, Rome, and Paris.
Ranked as #9 by Design School Hubs, Syracuse University’s design programs are located in The Nancy Cantor Warehouse, situated in downtown Syracuse. The school focuses on self-discovery in visual art and design; risk-taking and critical thought. Syracuse’s program is called “Environmental and Interior Design,” which is actually broader than most programs on this list.
At Syracuse, interior design students get a liberal arts education plus studio courses in fine arts and crafts to complement their main course of study. This program is good for students who want to focus on design, and also get to experience standard liberal art.
There are opportunities for students to study abroad in their junior year in London or Florence, and to pursue internships in Syracuse, New York City, and beyond.
Cornell is the only Ivy League school offering an interior design program, making it competitive and demanding. Their Design and Environment Analysis program offer students practical experiences in research and innovation, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with emphasis on the impact of design on the environment.
The STEM-certified program provides a flexible curriculum that necessitates students to undergo and complete foundational courses before focusing on electives that support individual educational goals. Along with their chosen area of expertise, students can also pursue a minor, honors thesis, or off-campus study.
New York, NY
FIT has steadily amassed international acclaim and recognition for its programs in design, fashion, art, communications, and business. FIT‘s Interior Design program has been producing students for success for more than 50 years. The program combines the academic study of the history and theory of interior design with practical, hands-on projects.
The school was ranked #7 in design programs by Design School Hubs and #8 by Design Intelligence. Its rigorous curriculum is immersed in its commitment to research, empirical learning, adaptable academics, and industry partnerships.
The school helps students gain proficiency in the latest technology, business, and presentation skills, plus a firm foundation in the liberal arts.
According to Design Intelligence, the University of Cincinnati Interior Design program is number four in the nation for 2017-2018 and has consistently been in the top 10 from year to year. The School offers a five-year program that emphasizes the psychological, physical, and social needs of clients and customers.
The school also offers travel abroad and exchange programs in England, Germany, and Denmark, as well as compulsory professional work in the U.S. or overseas.
92% of students have been employed within 3 months of graduating (71% with starting salaries higher than $40,000 a year), and are able to resolve problems, think critically, and use leading-edge technologies in the field.
New York, NY
Established in 1906, The New School for Design offers over 25 programs, including a B.S. in Urban Design, B.F.An in Interior Design, B.F.A. in Design and Technology, and M.F.A. in Interior Design. Students are provided access to NYC’s major firms and showrooms, as well as the exclusivity of connections from one of the best and oldest interior design schools.
Ranked #5 by Design Intelligence and Design Schools Hub, The school boasts of some sophisticated networks in commerce and industry, so this school can be a good option for students who wish to pursue commercial design.
The program accentuates collaborative work, allowing students to work with others in different degree programs. Interior designers naturally have to work with many different types of professionals in order to complete a job, by making students collaborate, helps prepare them for their career in interior design.
Graduates are well prepared and equipped to pursue work in the interior, set, lighting, event, and exhibition design, as well as historic preservation.
New York, NY
NYSID is a specialist interior design school founded in 1916. The school’s focus on interior design has aided it to provide some of the most comprehensive and creative education available in the United States to its 600 undergraduate and graduate students.
NYSID’s graduate programs were ranked #4 in the nation and their undergraduate programs were ranked #5 in the nation for 2016. 92% of students from undergraduate programs gained employment within 6 months of completing their studies, and the rate for postgraduate programs was 94%.
The school has strong alumni and professional network that students can go to enhance their career prospects.
NYSID’s curriculum meets the educational requirements for membership in industry associations and prepares the students for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification Examination. With compulsory internships, study-abroad programs, and over 100 faculty members who are practicing designers with firms that include HOK, Gensler, and Perkins, NYSID adequately prepares graduates to thrive in the real world of interior design.
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the most famous and well-ranked design schools in America. It was ranked #4 by Design Intelligence and #3 by Design Schools Hub. The school refers to its interior design program as “Interior Studies” majors at the undergraduate level.
The students are offered a choice to pick from three specializations or “pathways” through advanced design studios, exhibition design, focusing on design for the theater, or retail design. The school has one of the highest numbers of artists in the country, making its interior design program famous, especially for its practical instruction and coursework.
Many graduates go on to work in a set or retail design or conservation.
New York, NY
The school operates from its main Brooklyn campus where it has sustained its reputation for both the creative flexibility and practical rigor of its program. Since 2008, Design Intelligence has ranked the undergraduate program number two in the country.
The interior design program is an architecturally oriented program with a focus on spatial design as well as surface enhancement. All aspects of space such as the scale, configuration, proportion, and light source, as well as materials, textures, and color, are studied in regards to their effect on the human spirit.
The Pratt Institute also holds remarkable statistics with over 93% of graduates finding a job after graduation in May 2014 and of those enrolling into postgraduate study, 100% were accepted into graduate programs.
The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is ranked highly as #1 by Design Intelligence and #1 by Design Schools Hub for its art and design programs. The main campus is located in Savannah, Georgia, but SCAD also has interior design programs based in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and France.
These other program locations mean opportunities for students to get internships in metropolitan areas, or to study abroad! The SCAD Collaborative Learning Center, or CLC, partners with top businesses, brands, and organizations to create design-based concepts and solutions for experiences, products, media, and technology.
SCAD is the first art and design university to receive the Instructional Technology Council’s award for Outstanding Distance Education Program, and the rank of Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning from the Online Learning Consortium.