Explore the Top Interior Design Schools and Programs

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April 3, 2023
Robern Design Solutions

A career in interior design can be full of innovation and creativity, but to become a professional, it’s worthwhile to invest time in a university interior design degree. Some states require education and licensing for interior designers, and the right program can provide you with classroom and real-world experience to prepare you for a successful career in the field.  

Choosing the best interior design program for you will depend on a variety of factors, including your desired courses and emphasis, location, financial aid and tuition cost, mentorship and internship opportunities, and networking. Beyond these considerations, it’s important to understand the offerings of each program you’re considering, so you can select the best one for your goals and needs.

Explore some of the best interior design schools in the country with this overview, so you can better choose the right program to start your career.  

What to Look for in an Interior Design Program

Look for interior design colleges and programs that are accredited by CIDA (Council for Interior Design Accreditation), an independent organization that ensures that design students receive an education that properly sets them up for a career.  

You should also choose a program that will prepare you for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam. This three-part exam tests a designer’s knowledge of the core industry subjects, and passing the exam can help you assure future clients and collaborators that you meet the standards of the profession.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

As one of the most renowned interior design schools, the Rhode Island School of Design offers small class sizes for an intimate educational setting and a collaborative environment. While the curriculum features all the standard design principles, RISD students are encouraged to engage in dialogue about interior design, looking at the holistic structure of a building, as well as specifics like bathroom vanities.  

Best Design School for Student-to-Faculty Ratio

In school year 2021 and 2022, RISD had a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1. Such a scenario fosters greater interaction amongst peers, prioritizes personalized attention based on each student's unique pace and requirements, and optimizes the utilization of resources.

Students come from all over the world to learn in this unique setting and take advantage of the school’s strong commitment to arts education and conversation.  

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Located in historic Savannah, Georgia, the school has a strong focus on collaboration, innovation, and professional ethics, providing students with numerous opportunities to test their design techniques, both in the classroom and in real-world situations.  

Unique Opportunities

SCAD is home to a design studio known as SCADpro that provides students with opportunities to gain significant real-world experience. The college also hosts an annual event called SCADstyle, hosting big names in the design industry, as well as architects and editors, for a three-day conference.  

University of Cincinnati

As part of the university’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, the University of Cincinnati’s bachelor of science degree in interior design focuses on historical and technical knowledge of design principles, as well as innovative problem-solving. Students majoring in interior design are required to work on a wide variety of design plans, including residential and commercial buildings, as well as hospitals, theatres, and houses of worship, providing a diverse experience in design.  

Affordable Design Program

The University of Cincinnati offers a top-tier program in the Midwest at a reasonable tuition—$28,510 for out-of-state students and $13,176 for in-state applicants.  

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Drexel University

Located in the historic city of Philadelphia, Drexel University’s interior design program focuses on a blend of design theory and preparation to enter the professional world, exploring everything from luxury bathroom ideas to full-home design. In addition to required general education courses, students also spend time learning art history and interior design, culminating in a three-quarter capstone project for senior undergrads.  

High Focus on Experience

Drexel design students enjoy access to a professional co-op program that allows them to work at a design firm for a semester of their junior year. With additional opportunities to study abroad in Sydney, Seoul, and Denmark, students have plenty of chances to garner real-world experience before graduation.  

New York School of Interior Design (NYSID)

With a dual emphasis on liberal arts and interior design, the New York School of Interior Design’s programs offer students the opportunity to learn everything from design principles to presentation, business, and administrative skills. NYSID’s curriculum fully prepares its design students for the NCIDQ exam, in addition to providing internships, study-abroad programs, and access to over 100 faculty members who are practicing designers.  

Most Flexible Interior Design Degree

NYSID offers both a BFA and an AAS degree to students majoring in interior design, as well as a one-year certificate program. Students can choose the degree track that best fits with their time, finances, and lifestyle to learn the fundamentals of interior design and receive a certificate or degree.  

interior design sketch drawing
Credit: @ssergiocom

Auburn University

Prospective design students at Auburn University must be formally accepted into the highly competitive interior design program, part of the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences. The curriculum lasts nine semesters and features weekly sessions in a design studio, as well as a professional internship. Students are encouraged to diversify their knowledge by selecting electives in finance, women’s studies, health equity, and other subjects.  

Earn Credentials and Study Abroad

Auburn interior design students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the university’s study abroad opportunities in Rome, London, and multiple other locations, as well as academic tours in New York City. Students can also earn LEED Green Associate credential and the Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) credentials to prepare them for professional work.  

Pratt Institute

Located in Brooklyn, the Pratt Institute’s School of Design program emphasizes both architecture and human needs in its coursework. Once students complete their first-year classes, they have the opportunity to join studio classes focused on collaboration on projects, such as designing marble bathrooms, living spaces, and bedrooms.  

Best Study Abroad Opportunity

Pratt partners with the Danish International School during the spring semester, where junior undergrads can enroll and enjoy study trips throughout Scandinavia.  

Cornell University

Cornell University’s STEM-certified design program features a flexible curriculum that allows students to create their own focus based on their chosen research theme. Undergrads can choose from design strategy and innovation, sustainable futures, and health and well-being as emphases on which to focus their coursework and education.  

Most Holistic Interior Design Program

In addition to their interior design major, students are encouraged to pursue a minor, honors, thesis, or off-campus study in the subject of their choice. Students also learn processes used in humanities and sciences to use in conjunction with their design knowledge and skills.  

Kansas State University

The design program at Kansas State University offers study-abroad opportunities in Guatemala, the United Kingdom, Korea, Italy, and France. Coursework focuses on a blend of sustainability and evidence-based design strategies, covering everything from lighting, acoustics, and contemporary vs. modern style to codes and regulations.

Strong Networking and Mentorship  

KSU’s design students have access to multiple mentoring programs that offer strong networking opportunities, helping undergraduates make connections that can boost their future professional careers.  

Syracuse University

The Environmental and Interior Design program at Syracuse University focuses on both the art and architecture of design. Students have the opportunity to work in a studio environment that mirrors the settings they will experience in the professional field. With an emphasis on interdisciplinary coursework and projects, students also receive a strong liberal arts education while working toward their BFA in interior design.  

Internship and Study-Abroad Opportunities

Syracuse University’s design program boasts study-abroad options in London and Florence, as well as internships in Syracuse, New York City, and across the country.

Ultimately, the best interior design schools depend on your unique circumstances. We hope this guide gets you one step closer to deciding the next steps in your interior design career.

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