Interior Design School Requirements

Thinking of starting an interior design career? Here is what you need to know about the interior design school requirements.

interior design courses requirements
Interior designer school requirements | RomanR/Shutterstock

If you have a passion for design, love to redecorate your house and are always watching home improvement and design DIY shows, consider pursuing a career in interior design. Working as an interior designer or interior decorator can be a fun and rewarding career option, allowing you to create functional and beautiful spaces for a living.

As with many other professions, there are several ways to break into the industry. One of the best ways to launch a design career is by starting with getting an interior design degree. Here is what you need to know about interior design program requirements.

What does an interior designer do?

Interior designers create functional and appealing residential and commercial spaces. Their main objective is to create a space that reflects the client's personality, lifestyle and taste. They work with clients to determine their needs, preferences and budget to create designs that meet their expectations. They must consider lighting, furniture, color schemes and materials in their plans.

what does an interior designer do
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In addition to creating aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces, interior designers must know which materials, finishes and furnishings work in what areas and find the best ways to incorporate them. They may advise clients on color paletts, furniture placement and lighting design, and selecting durable and sustainable materials. Overall, interior designers need expertise in design, space planning and project management.

Traits of professional interior designers

While having an eye for design and aesthetic appeal is an essential part of designing spaces, there are a few other traits shared by successful designers. Let’s look at some of them.

Creativity: Creativity is one of the most important traits you need as an interior designer. This means thinking outside the box and developing unique and innovative ideas that reflect the client's personality and style. You also need to be a creative problem solver to find solutions to design challenges and make the best use of available space.

Attention to detail: Being detail-oriented and able to focus on even the most minor details can make a big difference in how others perceive your designs. A keen eye for detail helps to ensure that everything from color schemes and furniture placement to lighting and accessories is just right.

creative problem solving skils are needed for an inerior designer
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Communication skills: As you'll work closely with clients, contractors, architects and other professionals, you need good communication skills. Whether it's understanding your client's needs and preferences or problem-solving potential conflicts, communicating effectively with others is essential for building strong working relationships and ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Time management skills: Interior designers often work on multiple projects simultaneously and have tight deadlines. You need to have excellent time management skills for prioritizing tasks, meeting deadlines and delivering high-quality work on time.

Flexibility: When working with creative concepts, you must be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances. You might need to adjust designs based on client feedback, deal with unexpected issues during construction and make on-the-spot decisions to ensure the project stays on track. A flexible mindset will allow you to be creative in finding solutions and delivering exceptional results.

How long does interior design school take for different degrees?

Your education time will vary depending on the path you decide to take and the school you attend. Some programs can take a few months, while others can take up to several years. You might also be required to take an internship or job placement as part of the curriculum.

Certificate

Certificate programs in interior design are generally the shortest educational path and typically take 6-12 months to complete. These programs provide you with the basic skills and knowledge necessary to start a career in interior design. They may cover topics such as color theory, space planning, materials and design software. Upon completion, you get a certificate that can count towards updating your skills or accreditation.

how long is interior design school
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Associate's Degree

An associate's degree in interior design typically takes two years to complete. These programs offer a more comprehensive education than certificate programs, covering topics such as drafting, design history and building codes. With an associate's degree program from a community college, you might be eligible for entry-level positions in interior design firms or related fields. You might also be able to transfer your degree to a university offering a bachelor’s degree if you want to pursue your education further.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in interior design usually takes four years to complete. These programs offer a more in-depth education in interior design, covering topics such as history and design principles, space planning, computer applications, sustainable design and design research. As a graduate of a bachelor's degree program, you’ll have a wider range of career opportunities, including design management roles or starting your own interior design business.

professionally designed spaces
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Master's Degree and Doctorate Degrees

While most interior design professionals acquire a bachelor’s degree, there are also those that pursue their education even further. A master's degree programs typically take two years to complete, while doctoral programs can take up to four years or more. These programs provide students with advanced knowledge and research skills, allowing them to pursue careers in academia, research, or high-level design positions. You might need a master's degree for some specialized roles within fields like healthcare design or hospitality design.

Interior Design Accreditation

Depending on where you are going to work as an interior designer, you might be required to become licensed. You can obtain the interior design license by passing the National Council for Interior Design (NCIDQ) qualification exam or any additional state-required exams. You will need to complete your degree course first before you can qualify for the exams.

What does an interior design school curriculum look like?

Most interior design schools will have a similar curriculum for the students. Depending on the length of the program, some schools will offer more in-depth courses or a more specialized focus. You will find that the higher your degree, the more specialized the curriculum.

interior design curriculum requirements
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As many of the schools offer online learning, the curriculum for an online interior design program won’t be that much different than in-person learning. Each program has a specified minimum number of credits and semester hours you’ll need to complete to graduate. Some courses might be mandatory, while others are elective. The institution you decide to enroll in will provide you with all the requirements and course outlines. Some of the topics you will encounter include:

  • History of interior design
  • Furnishings and architectural styles
  • Design theory and concepts
  • Color theory and application
  • Space planning
  • Building codes and standards
  • Lighting
  • Materials, finishes and applications
  • Ergonomics
  • Sustainable building design
  • Ethics
  • 2D and 3D design
  • Computer-aided design
  • Design and communication skills

What are the admission requirements for an interior design program?

When considering applying for an interior design program, make sure that you meet the admission requirements. Most schools will have academic requirements that can include SAT scores, transcripts and grades, or relevant degrees. For example, to get into a master’s program, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree in interior design or a related field.

 interior design portfolio requirements
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As part of your submission, you might also need to provide an essay or letter of intent stating why you want to apply for said program and recommendation letters from teachers, employers, conselors or design professionals. Some interior design course requirements include resumes and portfolios (usually at a graduate studies level) to demonstrate your design qualifications. However, you might also have to submit a portfolio no matter what program you apply for. Some schools have specific portfolio requirements for their programs that might be different from other schools.

Key takeaways

Interior design is an in-demand field, and if you have the right skills and talent, the opportunities are endless. Whether you start your own consulting business or work for an interior design firm, you can be sure that you’ll be working on various projects for many different people. After all, you can only do so many interior decoring projects in your home before you drive your family crazy.  

As you can see, there are many different paths to becoming a successful interior designer. However, education is still a key component of success in this field, no matter what path you choose. There are many interior design online courses, both free and paid, that let you explore what a career in interior design is all about. Planner 5D Design School is also a great place to learn about interior design from the comfort of your home.

learn interior desing with planner 5d
Loft apartment by Marco Lam/Planner 5D

Whatever avenue you choose to take, make sure to do your research. The school you choose should be the right fit for you. Determine which program and curriculum reflect what you want to achieve as an interior designer. Pick one that best suits your needs and goals.

FAQ

What qualifications do you need to be an interior designer?

To become an interior designer, you generally need at least a bachelor's degree in interior design or a related field. This can include architecture or fine arts. Some states also require interior designers to have a license, which typically involves passing an exam and completing a certain amount of work experience.

How much schooling do you need for interior design?

Most interior design programs require four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor's degree. Some programs also offer two-year associate degree programs or shorter certificate programs.

Do you need math for interior design?

Basic math skills such as geometry and algebra are typically sufficient for most interior design work. Designers usually need to calculate measurements, estimate material costs, and understand technical drawings and blueprints.

What courses to take to become an interior designer?

Interior designers have to take a wide range of courses while studying. These courses usually include topics like design principles and elements, color theory and lighting design, materials and textiles, as well as architectural drafting and drawing, to name a few.

What do you learn in interior design school?

An interior design school offers opportunities for developing a wide range of skills to prepare you for a career in interior design. Key focus areas may include space planning and layout, technical drafting and drawing skills, building codes and regulations, communication and presentation skills, and business and marketing.

How long is interior design school?

How long does interior design school take will depend on the program and school. You can complete some interior design programs in as little as 6-12 months, while others can take 2-4 years.



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