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Choosing Online Schools with Interior Design Programs

Online interior design programs are not common, but a few are available. Find out what you should consider when choosing a school, and get an overview of the common interior design degree programs.

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When choosing from the available online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in interior design, students should consider their career goals and the format of the program. Here we discuss these considerations, as well as the program type and a few schools with available programs.

How to Select an Online Interior Design School

If the time you have for school is limited, you'll need to carefully weigh what's most important to you regarding your education in the field of interior design. If online study is a must-have, you might need to carefully consider the degree level you choose, the program's accreditation status, and the flexibility of the online courses offered. Also keep in mind that the few undergraduate and graduate degree programs in interior design that offer online coursework typically require some in-person attendance.

Career Goals

An associate's degree in this field can lead to entry-level employment as an interior designer's assistant or furniture designer. Individuals with a bachelor's or master's degree can participate in the creative side of interior design by working as apprentices or junior designers. Individuals can pursue National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification, required by some states, with as little as an associate's degree and the requisite amount of experience (www.ncidq.org).

Program Type

Online programs in this field are commonly available through private, for-profit schools; it's important for aspiring interior designers to determine if the program they are attending is accredited, such as those approved by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). Accreditation means that the program has been vetted with regard to preparing students for any necessary licensure in this field, as well as meet professional standards held by potential employers. According to NCIDQ, It is still possible to earn professional certification after earning a degree from a non-CIDA accredited program; however, fulfilling the eligibility requirements may take longer (www.ncidq.org).

Delivery Format

Interior design degree programs are often available in hybrid format; this means some courses are available online, but some degree requirements must be fulfilled on campus. Online course materials are delivered electronically through a specialized course management system. Additionally, some programs offer course interfaces that allow for direct, real-time communication with fellow classmates and instructors. Some course materials may also be available through video or multimedia format.

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Program Overviews

Online Associate of Arts in Interior Design

An associate's degree program lasts two years and is the most uncommon degree level available online in interior design. The curriculum covers the history and fundamentals of interior design. Students develop illustration skills and gain an understanding of basic concepts, like lighting and space planning. Course topics include:

  • History and fundamentals of interior design
  • Textiles, materials, furnishings and color theory
  • Space and environment design planning
  • Computer-aided and graphic design
  • Business skills and blueprint reading

Online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design

Not all online bachelor's degree programs are accredited. These 4-year programs incorporate basic art concepts with courses in human behavior as well as those specifically in interior design. Programs typically include portfolio and internship requirements. Specialization is available at the bachelor's degree level through electives and practicums. Coursework includes:

  • Interior lighting and materials
  • Building codes, structures and blueprints
  • Office, restaurant, residential interiors
  • Sustainable, holistic and special use design
  • Computer-aided design

Online Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design

Online and hybrid master's degree programs include seminars, coursework, research and studio work. They could require group studies or internships and may culminate in a thesis paper or project. Some master's degree programs emphasize preparation for teaching careers. At the master's degree level, students study various aspects of interior design, such as:

  • Theory and criticism of interior design
  • Residential, commercial, hospitality and retail design
  • Environmental psychology and contemporary issues
  • Spacial design, color perception and material use

Schools With Online Programs in Interior Design

Penn Foster College has an online associate's degree program in interior design that requires 45 credits. Students will study design, color, CAD techniques and more over four semesters. Program credits can be used toward the NCIDQ exam requirements.

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design offers an online or on-campus Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design program. The program focuses on sustainable design and consists of 126 credits. Students must complete a senior year internship, and take courses in subjects like drafting, interior materials, building codes and more.

Ball State University provides a fully online Master of Arts or Master of Science degree in family and consumer science with a specialization in interior design. The program offers a fast track that consists of 33 credits and can be completed in 2 years, but you must have a bachelor's degree in architecture or interior design. If you do not have this degree you can enroll in the 3-year program that requires 47 hours of core undergraduate courses on campus in addition to the master's program.

Potential students should consider their career goals as they look for online programs in interior design at the associate's, bachelor's or master's levels. They should also research the format of the program, as some programs require internships or other in-person requirements.

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