Top School in San Francisco for Interior Design Courses

San Francisco has several schools with programs in interior design. Find the best program for you by reading about schools' rankings, program offerings and tuition info.

School and Ranking Information

Students have about nine school options in the San Francisco area for interior design programs. Based on program offerings and distance from San Francisco, the best three schools with interior design programs are listed below. All three schools have programs that prepare students for either state or national licensure exams.

  • Winner: The California College of the Arts (CCA), which has nationally ranked fine arts graduate programs, offers an interior design program at its San Francisco campus that is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation.
  • Runner-Up #1: San Francisco State University's (SFSU) College of Health and Social Sciences features a bachelor's program in interior design. It is the only school of these three to have a related master's degree program.
  • Runner-Up #2: Cañada College is located about 25 miles from San Francisco. It offers an associate's degree (AS) and five certificate programs in interior design. Some of these programs are available with an emphasis in sustainable and kitchen and bath design.

School Comparison Chart

Category California College of the Arts San Francisco State University Cañada College
Ranking(s) 11th among graduate fine arts programs (2012) nationwide*,
2nd among graduate interior design programs (2012) nationwide*
50th among regional universities in the West (2013)* N/A
Location San Francisco, CA San Francisco, CA Redwood City, CA (24 miles from San Francisco)
School Type Four-year, private not-for-profit Four-year, public Two-year, public
Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $38,798 (undergraduate)** $6,440 (undergraduate, in-state), $18,098 (undergraduate, out-of-state)** $888 (undergraduate, in-state), $4,704 (undergraduate, out-of-state)**
Interior Design Degree Levels Offered Bachelor's degrees Bachelor's degrees Associate's degrees; certificates
Interior Design Degrees (all levels) Awarded in 2011-2012 6** 31** 42**
Most Popular Interior Design Program in 2011-2012 Bachelor's in Interior Design (6 awarded)** Bachelor's in Interior Design (31 awarded)** 1 to 2 Year Certificate in Interior Design (21 awarded)**
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time) 49% (2005 entering class)** 46% (2005 entering class)** 13% (2008 entering class)**
Noteworthy Design studio collaborates with the Sierra Club, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Dolores Shelter Program Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Council Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) or IDEX California Exam AS degree and Certificate of Achievement meet minimum education requirements for American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) allied membership

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report, **NCES College Navigator.

Winner: California College of the Arts

  • Internship program offers professional design work experience with global architecture firms and design studios
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 11:1, according to the NCES
  • 84% of first-time undergraduate students received some form of financial aid in 2011-2012, stated the NCES

CCA offers an undergraduate program in interior design and graduate program in advanced architecture design. Through a faculty that has direct interior design experience in corporate and retail work environments, students learn new materials and design methods to digitally render and install full-scale interior spaces. The BFA degree program requires 75 units in interior design, with an additional 51 units in the humanities and sciences. The core studio requirements comprise materiality and space, studio practice, visual digital media, building systems, lighting design, and drawing. Internships and a professional practice course expose students to professional design work settings. With additional work experience, students can take the NCIDQ exam.

Runner-Up #1: San Francisco State University

  • Ranked 15th among top public schools in the West in 2013 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Features an artist-in-residence program
  • According to school, the international enrollment was 2,426 from 90 countries in 2010-2011

SFSU's Department of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics in the College of Health and Human Services offers a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Interior Design, as well as a master's degree in family and consumer sciences, apparel design and dietetics. The bachelor's program combines a studio design curriculum with traditional coursework and emphasizes a cultural and historical appreciation of interior design. The 39 core credits include courses in interior design solutions, interior design materials and business practices, textiles, and human dimensions in housing.

To complete all required 54 units, students further need six prerequisite credits and nine elective units, with course selection including textile arts, forecasting interior design trends, visual merchandising, and art history. Graduates are authorized to take the IDEX California, the certification examination for interior designers, along with the NCIDQ examination, after two years of experience.

Runner-Up #2: Cañada College

  • The program has two full-time faculty members and eight adjunct faculty members
  • Graduates may sit for the IDEX exam

The Cañada College's interior design department offers one AS degree in interior design, requiring 60 units, and five certificates, including an interior design certificate of achievement (40.5 units). Other certificates are in green/sustainable design (19 units), kitchen and bath design (42 units), residential and commercial design (55.5 units), and re-design and home staging (18 units). Within the associate's degree program, students complete coursework in architectural drawing, interior design, presentation techniques, lighting design, and CAD applications.

Graduates of the AS degree program and the certificate programs requiring over 40 units can become Certified Interior Designers by sitting for the IDEX California exam. Students with a certificate in kitchen and bath design can take the Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer exam. After completing required work experience, these students can then take the state's Certified Kitchen Designer and Certified Bath Designer exams.

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