If you are thinking about going to school for interior design, you have three main choices: earn a certificate degree, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree.
One option for students who don’t have a lot of time to go to school or who are just interested in dipping their toes into the world of interior design can earn a certificate. Certificate programs range in how many credit hours they are, but generally take a year or less to complete. If you earn a certificate, you probably won’t take any classes in general topics, like English and math. Rather, virtually your entire schooling will focus on topics related to interior design, such as design principles, drawing and drafting, historic interiors, and business practices. Earning a certificate will allow you to apply design and color theory in a basic sense to interior design projects. You won’t be considered as qualified as interior designers with associate’s or bachelor’s degrees, but you might be able to find some entry-level work and start building your portfolio of designs as you continue to gain skills and learn about design.
For people seeking a middle-of-the-road solution, an associate’s of arts degree may be the answer. At this level students generally take classes in both standard areas of study, such as science, math, English, and history, as well as career-specific classes like drawing interiors, color theory, environmental design, computer-aided drafting, and the history of interior design. Because these degree programs require students to take more courses in both areas, they take longer to complete than certificates – generally two years, although some can be completed in as little as eighteen months, or even a little over a year if you take the intensive route. In these programs students learn about many facets of design, including how to create commercial, residential, and retail spaces, as well as about concepts such as environmentally sustainable and universal design. At the associate’s degree level you can sometimes also participate in an internship or externship partnership, which will give you the chance to gain some practical experience and potentially make some professional connections before you graduate.
Bachelor’s degrees are the longest and most involved educational route to choose. They take four years to complete, typically, and prepare future designers with all the skills they need to find jobs with any design service, real estate company, furniture store, or any other company that employs interior designers. Classes include a combination of general studies classes and courses focused on interior design, just like the format in associate’s degree programs. Topics covered include areas such as color and perception, architectural construction and detailing, history of interiors, computer-aided drafting, building systems, and business practices. You will likely also have the opportunity to participate in internships or externships at this level. You might have an easier time finding a job if you have a bachelor’s degree because your increased education will give you an edge over the competition.