Interior architecture programs focus on the processes by which enclosed environments and spaces are designed, modified and used. Bachelor's degree programs, which usually take 4-5 years to complete, supply students with fundamental knowledge of the design of interior spaces through a combination on classroom and studio work. In a two-year master's degree program, students work on advanced topics that will help them in professional practice. They learn to incorporate their design ideas into plans that conform to building codes and user needs. Studio work gives them hands-on experience. Graduates can apply for licensing as an interior design professional, which is required in all states.
Admission requirements for bachelor's degree programs typically include a high school diploma (or its equivalent). Master's degree candidates are typically required to have a Bachelor of Interior Architecture or to have completed a related design program, such as industrial design, architecture or interior design. They must also submit a professional portfolio.
Bachelor of Interior Architecture
A Bachelor of Interior Architecture program teaches the many factors that influence the design in interior spaces and environments, including technical, social, cultural, economic and physical factors. Students learn to provide creative and functional designs for a variety of interior environments, such as residential, commercial, educational and medical spaces. With an emphasis placed on studio learning, the curriculum incorporates hands-on design in order to help students gain experience and build a strong portfolio. Individuals interested in undergraduate programs in interior architecture should consider programs accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) or the National Association for Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Program coursework explores the theory, practice and technology of interior architecture. Traditional architecture courses are often incorporated into the curriculum. Studio topics often focus on contemporary design issues, building types and human factors. Required courses for this undergraduate degree program cover:
- History of interior architecture
- Color theory and application
- Computer design technology
- Contemporary interiors
- Furniture theory and analysis
- Light design
Master of Interior Architecture
This program provides a comprehensive design curriculum that teaches students to transform conceptual design ideas into detailed interior design solutions that take into consideration building codes and standards, user needs, cost and existing building constraints. Students gain an advanced understanding of factors that influence the design of interior spaces, such as aesthetics, human behavior and building technology. They learn to make informed design decisions based on the welfare, health and safety of the public.
Program coursework covers the fundamentals of art and design theory and fosters the growth of creative and critical-thinking skills in order to prepare students for professional practice. Required studio courses allow students to build their professional portfolio and gain practical experience in the field. Coursework covers the following topics:
- Project management
- Building codes
- Interior materials
- Green and sustainable design
- Construction methods
- Lighting and acoustics
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Most graduates enter professional practice as interior architects or interior designers within design and architecture firms. Career opportunities also exist in a variety of specialty areas, such as space planning, furniture design or lighting design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers earned a median annual salary of $53,370 in May 2018. The BLS also reported that although keen competition is expected for job opportunities, employment of interior designers was projected to increase by 4% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov).
Many of the states in the U.S. require interior design professionals to be licensed and registered with the state before providing their services to the public. In order to obtain licensure, candidates must apply for and pass the national qualifying exam administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). Exam applicants must have a minimum of six years of combined education and experience within the interior design field. Upon passing the exam, interior design professionals are granted the title of Registered, Licensed or Certified Designer depending on their state. Participation in continuing-education opportunities is usually required to maintain and renew licensure.
Popular Career Options
Graduates with a master's degree in interior architecture are prepared to pursue career opportunities in research, leadership and professional practice within small or large interior design and architecture firms. Many interior designers choose to be self-employed, opening their own consulting businesses. Employment opportunities may include:
- Interior architect
- Interior design educator
- Design consultant
- Project manager
Bachelor's and master's degree programs in interior architecture combine theoretical and practical training in design and technology, preparing students for careers that can include interior designer or architect, consultant and project manager.