Interior Decorator Programs by Degree Level

Interior decorators improve the aesthetics and efficiency of an established indoor space. No formal education is specified for this career; however, those who pursue associate's or bachelor's degrees in interior design generally have the best job opportunities, and master's degrees in interior design are also common.

Essential Information

Aspiring decorators will develop the skills required for their chosen careers and learn the architectural elements involved in interior spaces. Computer-aided design, fabrics, color, aesthetic studies and lighting are explored in such degree programs. Students should also be prepared to complete internships and to design professional portfolios as a condition of graduation. High school diploma or GED is the required prerequisite for an undergraduate program and; and undergraduate degree is required for admission to the master's program.

Associate's Degree in Interior Design

Students in interior design associate's degree programs learn the best use of decorative elements, as well as design basics and trends. The curriculum usually includes architectural drafting and related business classes, such as marketing and accounting. Interior design programs often require students to complete an internship and submit a professional portfolio prior to graduation. Some colleges require students to complete placement testing prior to enrollment to determine their level of proficiency in math and English.

Some programs offer relevant merchandising classes in addition to the core curriculum. Typical topics covered in an interior design associate's degree program include:

  • Computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Fabric textures and patterns
  • Furniture styles
  • Interior space planning
  • Design fundamentals

Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design

Interior design majors take art and technology classes that teach them all the stages of drafting, building and outfitting residential and commercial interiors. Design studio classes typically make up the core of the curriculum. Students are also encouraged to take classes in related design disciplines. Completion of an internship and a portfolio are usually part of the program requirements.

Some students may be required to enroll as pre-design majors and complete prerequisites before being accepted into the program. Prospective interior design majors must usually submit a portfolio, resume, recommendation letters and a personal essay.

The coursework in a baccalaureate-level interior design program focuses on developing problem solving, analysis, research, design and drafting skills. Typical classes in a 4-year undergraduate interior design program include:

  • Elements of design
  • Fabrics and finishes
  • Introduction to architecture
  • Interior construction
  • Lighting and color

Master's Degree in Interior Design

Master's programs in interior design focus on sociological and psychological approaches to indoor spaces. The curriculum also covers research methods and issues in the profession. Students can choose from several areas of concentration, including design theory and criticism, green design and historic restoration. Design courses from other disciplines are often integrated into the curriculum. Program requirements include a master's thesis, project or professional portfolio.

Students lacking an interior design degree may be required to extend their program to three years in order to complete required prerequisites. Some programs only accept students who had an undergraduate major in interior design. Prospective students must complete an admissions application and submit GRE scores, a statement of intent, undergraduate transcripts, references and a design portfolio.

The topics covered in a master's-level interior design program will depend somewhat on the student's area of concentration. General topics that are studied by most students include:

  • Interior design professional practice
  • Interior design history and theory
  • Human perspectives on interior environments
  • Historical interiors
  • Aesthetic studies

Salary Information and Career Outlook

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (, interior decorator is a job title classification of interior design, and interior decorating careers are expected to increase by 4% from 2014 to 2024. Interior decorators specializing in kitchen and baths, environmental design and ergonomics will have the most job opportunities. Interior designers earned a median of $48,840 per year as of May 2015, according to the BLS. Salaries may fluctuate based on experience and education level.

Continuing Education

Many MFA in Interior Design programs are available for professionals who desire careers as interior decorating instructors or researchers. Other options include professional master's degrees for those with bachelor's degrees in another discipline or post-professional master's degrees for students who studied interior design as undergraduates.

A Ph.D. program in interior design prepares professionals in the field for careers as college professors or researchers. There are few doctoral programs in interior design specifically; most programs cover a specific facet of the field, such as human behavior and design, architectural history and preservation, or design, construction and planning.

Students interested in interior decorator degrees have multiple levels they can pursue. The formal education will provide the skills and industry knowledge required to work successfully in the field. Elements of design and design fundamentals are two foundational courses students can expect to explore.

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