What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Interior Design Program?

When choosing an online program to obtain a master’s in interior design, students can take advantage of convenient education options that equal an on-campus experience with quality coursework to prepare for a successful interior design career. Flexible attendance options allow graduate students to hold a full-time work position while also meeting degree requirements, and self-pacing programs make it easy to work ahead in preparation for personal obligations. When searching for an online degree program, it’s important to consider all options and find the program that best meets your needs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Interior Design

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Interior Designer Prepares students to become professional interior designers, exploring concepts about usable space and the importance of balance and symmetry. Interior designer in a personal office working as an independent consultant
Architecture Focused on the theory of interior architecture and design as it relates to building. The program encourages them to explore the development of concepts and designs for creating permanent interior architectural structures. Interior architect for a large design firm, as an independent contractor for personal clients or in an office environment for corporate clients

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Interior Design

There are several schools that offer online programs for a master’s degree in interior design, and each provides a unique approach to the required curriculum. Those pursuing a career in interior design must decide if they prefer their education in the form of a Master’s in Fine Arts Interior Design degree or a Master’s in Architecture and Interior Design. These options each put emphasis on different focuses within interior design and offer curriculum that reflects that focus.

Overall, your coursework can be affected by the degree you seek and the program you choose to complete. Despite the variation, there are several courses that are commonly found within most programs, including:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Interior Design and Environmental Psychology Gives students an understanding of the ways human beings react to and interact with a built environment, including the impact of cultural and social issues and demographic factors.
Theory of Interior Design Explores the industry’s history and how interior design is likely to evolve over time and helps students become familiar with current best practices.
Principles of Organizational Ecology Studies social organization history and ecology as influencing factors on design concepts and space construction.
Professional Practice in Interior Design Teaches students the business practices used in interior design, covering topics such as billing and accounting, ethics and professional certification.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Interior Design?

Online programs for a master’s degree in interior design are generally set up to take between two and three years to complete. In most programs, 60 hours of advanced course credits are required for graduation. The number of classes you choose to take each semester can have an impact on the amount of time it takes to reach your degree, with part-time students requiring more semesters for completion than full-time students.

For some online programs, an accelerated learning option is available that cuts the total program time to as low as one year. These programs often require a full-time commitment, with students encouraged to focus solely on program completion, and are often too intensive for students who have other commitments such as work.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Interior Design Prepares For

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
NCIDQ Certification Although not every state requires certification, the certification examination offered by the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) is considered the gold standard of competence and professionalism in the industry. Obtaining a master’s degree in interior design greatly reduces the number of work hours required for exam eligibility.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Interior Design Degrees

When choosing an online school for your master’s in interior design degree, it’s important to look for an accredited program. Accreditation can be given through national organizations, such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or regionally through organizations like the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities or Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Industry-specific accreditation may be given through the Council for Interior Design Education.

Programs that receive accreditation from one of these organizations have met the educational standards dictated by the interior design industry. Accreditation ensures a quality education and can be necessary for credit transfers, should a student choose to take their education further, and for professional certifications.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Interior Design Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows interior designers have a somewhat lower-than-average job outlook from now until 2026. This makes obtaining a master’s degree critical for gaining a competitive advantage over professional peers when seeking highly desirable positions. Because obtaining a master’s degree in interior design helps prepare students for the NCIDQ exam, those who hold a bachelor’s degree are required to complete at least one extra full year of work experience before they can be eligible to take the exam. For some states, certification through the CIDQ through passage of the NCIDQ exam is a requirement to work in interior design. In others, CIDQ certification may still be a requirement for hiring companies.

Expected Salary

Along with an increase in professional opportunity, completing an online master’s in interior design program can also have a positive impact on your salary potential. When you look at the charts below, you’ll see positions open to those who hold an online master’s degree in interior design offer significant financial benefit.

Job Title Salary Range
Interior Designer $34,000-$68,240
Senior Interior Designer $48,615-$91,120
Project Manager, Interior Design $39,090-$91,100
Design Director, Interior Design $59,561-$147,387
Interior Architect $36,175-$77,431

Source: PayScale.com

Whatever career path you choose, a master’s degree can help you negotiate a higher salary when applying for a position. The chart below shows the annual mean wage of various organization types for interior designers.

Annual Mean Wages of an Interior Designer in Varying Organizations

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Something also to consider is your location as it can impact your earning potential. The following chart shows the top paying metropolitan areas for an interior designer and below that is a map of annual mean wages nationwide for interior designers.

Interior Designer Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Within the interior design industry, those who hold an online master’s degree can pursue a variety of career focuses. Prospective employers are often willing to negotiate better salary and benefit to candidates who show the dedication to their field a graduate degree demonstrates.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Interior Designer Interior designers are trained to enhance an interior space through the use of architectural design and decorative elements to maximize functionality, safety and aesthetics while following all proper inspection regulations and building codes. $51,500 per year 4%
Set and Exhibit Designer Set and exhibit designers apply their interior design background to conceptualize sets for the film, television and theater industries and aid in the design and implementation of special exhibits for organizations, such as zoos and aquariums. $59,590 per year 10%

Professional Organizations

Interior designers often work as independent contractors or consultants, so networking can be beneficial to their careers. Professional organizations are a great way for those with a master’s degree in interior design to learn from colleagues with more experience, see available job opportunities, engage in continuing education opportunities and stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and trends. Here are a few of the most respected professional organizations for anyone with a master’s degree in interior design.

American Society of Interior Designers: ASID offers members access to organizational research, business and learning tools, industry news and continuing education courses. The organization also hosts several industry events throughout the year where members can network with others in their industry.

Interior Design Educators Council, Inc: The IDEC was created to advance interior design research and education. The organization hosts several conferences and events for networking, offers multiple industry publications and allows members to help shape educational standards.

International Interior Design Association: The IIDA is a networking and educational organization that holds multiple events for members, hosts a variety of relevant competitions and offers job search tools.

Interior Design Society: Members of IDS receive discounts on offered continuing education credits, can connect with other members and industry partners, attend national events and conferences and can participate in the organization’s Designer of the Year Awards Program.

Designer Society of America: The DSA is specific to residential interior designers and offers members a free portfolio to showcase work, industry publications, invitations to member events, continuing education opportunities and members-only discounts on professionally relevant products and services.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Interior Design

Many students choose an online program to obtain their master’s degree in interior design to take advantage of the savings that online programs offer. However, some are still in need of financial assistance to help cover the expense of graduate school. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should always be the first step to soliciting financial help to find out which federally funded grants and loans you qualify for. If these do not cover your expenses, or you find you don’t qualify, private loans and scholarships are another avenue that can help. Look through the resources below to get you started.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

ASID Foundation Legacy Scholarship for Graduate Students

Award: $4,000

Deadline: April 17

Eligibility: Open to students who are accepted for, or enrolled in, admission for a graduate interior design program at an accredited university. Application includes a personal essay, portfolio and letter of recommendation.

David Barrett Memorial Scholarship

Award: $12,000

Deadline: January 2020

Eligibility: Students must demonstrate a commitment to using traditional materials and classic design elements, submit a portfolio that reflects this commitment and complete other application requirements.

Sprak Design Scholarship

Award: $1,000

Deadline: May 15

Eligibility: Open to students enrolled in an accredited design program with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.9 and have taken no breaks between their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Vercille Voss IFDA Graduate Student Scholarship

Award: $2,000

Deadline: March 31

Eligibility: Open to students who are currently enrolled in an interior design graduate program at an accredited college or university.

Tricia LeVangie Green/Sustainable Design Scholarship

Award: $1,500

Deadline: March 31

Eligibility: Open to students who are currently enrolled, either full-time or part-time, in an accredited interior design graduate degree program and who demonstrate the desire to creatively utilize green/sustainable elements in their designs.