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The Top 10 Schools for Interior Design in the US 

These top schools with interior design majors are worth applying to. See which interior design programs made the list to narrow down your school search.

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While a formal education is not an absolute must, most interior design firms require designers to hold at least a bachelor’s degree from one of a broad range of disciplines. In fact, a bachelor’s degree is the highest level of education obtained by more than 2 in 5 interior designers (44%) surveyed by Houzz in 2022, while 27% went on to earn a master’s degree. More than a quarter of interior designers surveyed by Houzz report having an associate degree or lower credential.

Why Should Designers Attend a School for Interior Design?

Earning an interior design degree ensures the aesthetic, technical and business education needed to be a well-rounded interior designer. Having a formal degree can also increase your earning power during your career as an interior designer. According to the IIDA, interior designers with advanced degrees or extra certification (NCIDQ, LEED or CID certification) reported a median annual salary $17,000 greater than those without. 

How to Choose a School With an Interior Design Program 

The first step towards choosing a top interior design program is to make sure it has the proper accreditation. The two main components you should be aware of when starting your search are the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ exam)

  • Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA):

An independent nonprofit accrediting organization for colleges and universities in the U.S. and internationally. Council volunteers ensure that students receive an education that will serve them as students and prepare them for future professional growth. 

  • National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ exam): 

A three-part exam which tests interior designers’ knowledge of core competencies required for professional practice in the industry. Students enrolled in an accredited interior design program can be confident that they will be prepared for the NCIDQ exam  and meet the quality standards recognized by the profession.

Top Interior Design Schools in the U.S.

The task of finding an accredited college or university may seem daunting but this list of the programs can help you narrow down your options or at least kickstart your search for the best school that fits you. 

10. Drexel University 

Philadelphia, PA

Drexel’s interior design program combines the study of interior design with the study of art and art history. Students explore the behavioral, technological, environmental and aesthetic aspects of interior design within the context of complex design projects.  Combined with art and art history and general education requirements, a core of interior design courses creates a unique education at the forefront of design. Drexel’s Westphal College is considered one of the best interior design colleges as it offers an impressive range of degree options; 19 in the undergraduate program alone. Building on a solid foundation of visual studies, Westphal inspires a sense of experimentation and expansion of visual horizons.

  • Degrees Offered: B.S., M.S. 
  • CIDA-Accredited: Yes 
  • Estimated Cost: $1,088 per credit hour 

9. Syracuse 

Syracuse, NY

Syracuse University’s interior design programs are housed in The Nancy Cantor Warehouse, located in downtown Syracuse. Emphasis is on self-discovery in visual art and design; risk-taking and critical thought. Syracuse’s program is called “Environmental and Interior Design,” which is a bit broader than most of the other programs on this list. At Syracuse, interior design students get a liberal arts education and studio courses in fine arts and crafts to supplement their main course of study. This program may be a good option for students who want to focus on design, but also want parts of a more standard liberal arts experience.

  • Degree Offered: B.F.A.
  • CIDA-Accredited: Yes 
  • Estimated Cost: $55,920 per year 

8. Cornell University 

Ithaca, NY 

Cornell is the only Ivy League school offering an interior design program, making it competitive and rigorous. Their Human Centered Design program, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, provides students with hands-on experiences in research and innovation, with a special focus on the impact of design on the environment. The curriculum is organized with a focus in three fields: design strategy, sustainable futures, and health and well-being. 

  • Degrees Offered: B.S., M.A.
  • CIDA-Accredited: Yes 
  • Estimated Cost: B.S: $39,466.; M.A.: $20,800

7. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

New York, NY

FIT has consistently amassed international acclaim and recognition for its programs in fashion, design, art, communications and business. FIT‘s Interior Design program has been preparing students for success for more than 50 years. This rigorous, multidisciplinary program combines the academic study of the history and theory of interior design with practical, hands-on projects. Over the years, the school has been ranked No. 7 in best interior design programs by Design School Hubs and No. 8 by Design Intelligence. Its rigorous curriculum is steeped in its commitment to research, experiential learning, adaptable academics and industry partnerships.

  • Degrees Offered: A.A.S., B.F.A.
  • CIDA-Accredited: Yes 
  • Estimated Cost: $10,846 out-of-state; $3,585 in-state

6. Parsons New School for Design

New York, NY 

Established in 1906, The New School offers over 25 programs, including a B.F.A in interior design, B.F.A. in Design and Technology, B.S. in Urban Design, and an M.F.A. in Interior Design. Students have 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 No. 5 by Design Intelligence and Design Schools Hub, The New School for Design boasts some well-developed networks in commerce and industry, so this school may be a particularly good option for students who wish to pursue commercial design. The program emphasizes collaborative work, allowing students to work with others in different degree programs. Interior designers have to work with many different types of professionals in order to complete a job, this type of collaboration helps prepare students for their career in interior design.

5. University of Cincinnati in Ohio

Cincinnati, OH 

According to Design Intelligence, the Interior Design program was ranked No. 4 in the nation for 2017-2018, and is consistently in the top 10 from year to year. The School of Architecture and Interior Design at University of Cincinnati offers a five-year program emphasizing the physical, psychological, and social needs of clients and customers; culminating in a capstone project, which provides students with hands-on practical experiences. Ninety-two percent of students have been employed within three months of graduating (71% with starting salaries higher than $40,000 a year), and are able to resolve problems, think critically, and use cutting-edge technologies in the field. Coursework is hands on in studio, as well as specialized in classes, such as Furniture /Millwork, Communication Skills, Design Science, Business, and Lighting.

  • Degrees Offered: B.S.
  • CIDA-Accredited: Yes
  • Estimated Cost: $13,855 out-of-state; $7,984 in-state per term

4. New York School of Interior Design 

New York, NY 

NYSID is a specialist interior design school founded in 1916. The school’s focus on interior design has enabled it to provide some of the most in-depth and creative education available in the United States to its 600 undergraduate and graduate students. NYSID’s graduate programs are ranked No. 4 in the nation, and its undergraduate programs are ranked No. 5 in the nation for 2016. Ninety-two percent of students from undergraduate programs gained employment within six months of completing their studies, and the rate for postgraduate programs was Ninety-four percent. The school has a strong alumni and professional network that students can draw on to enhance their career prospects. This program gives students the tools to think analytically; to create functional, safe, and beautiful interior environments; and to communicate verbally and graphically using the latest technology.

  • Degrees Offered: A.A.S., B.F.A.
  • CIDA Accredited: Yes
  • Estimated Cost: $1,095 tuition per credit 

3. Rhode Island School of Design 

Providence, RI 

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the more famous and well-ranked design schools in the country. It has been ranked No. 4 in the top interior design schools by Design Intelligence and No. 3 by Design Schools Hub. The school offers “Interior Studies” majors at the undergraduate level. At this level, the student has the choice of three specializations, or “pathways”, through advanced design studios, focusing on design for the theater, exhibition design or retail design. RISD has one of the highest concentrations of artists in the country, making its interior design program well-known, especially for its practical instruction and coursework.

  • Degree Offered: B.F.A., M.A., M.Des
  • CIDA-Accredited: No
  • Estimated Cost: $56,435 per year 

2. Pratt Institute 

Brooklyn, NY 

This top interior design school operates from its main Brooklyn campus (PI also has a Manhattan campus), where it has maintained its reputation for both the creative flexibility and practical rigor of its program. Since 2008, the professional survey, Design Intelligence, has ranked the undergraduate program number two in the country. The interior design program is an architecturally oriented program with emphasis on spatial design as well as surface embellishment. All aspects of space—scale, proportion, configuration, and light source, as well as textures, materials, and color—are studied in relation to their effect on the human spirit. The Pratt Institute holds impressive statistics, with 94% of graduates finding job placements following graduation between July 2018 and June 2019 within one year of graduating. 

  • Degrees offered: B.F.A., M.F.A.
  • CIDA-Accredited: Yes
  • Estimated Cost: $55,575 per year 

1. Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, Georgia 

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is ranked highly across the board (No. 1 by both Design Intelligence and Design Schools Hub) for all 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 Lacoste, France. These other program locations mean greater opportunities to get internships in metropolitan areas, or opportunities to study abroad! The SCAD Collaborative Learning Center, or CLC, partners with top businesses, brands and organizations to generate design-based concepts and solutions for experiences, products, media and technology. SCAD made our list of the best interior design universities because it 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.

  • Degrees Offered: B.F.A., M.A., and M.F.A.
  • CIDA-Accredited: Yes
  • Estimated Cost: $38,340 

Conclusion

After reading this list of the top 10 interior design programs you should have a better idea of what is out there for you. All of the schools listed have top ranking interior design programs but you want to be sure to consider other determining factors such as location, and cost. As mentioned earlier, earning power and education are directly linked in a career like interior design. After you receive a formal degree, it is also important to consider other interior design certifications. Read “The Ultimate Guide to Interior Design Certification” by Houzz Pro next to learn more. 

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