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10 Best Interior Design Schools in the US

Posted by Francesca Fulciniti | May 5, 2019 4:00:00 PM

College Info

 

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An education in interior design is getting more and more important for aspiring professionals in the field. In many states, you can’t call yourself an interior designer unless you have a license or a certain level of education.

If you’re thinking about becoming an interior designer, you’ll want to know about the best interior design schools you can attend in the US. Whether you want to work on residential or commercial design, the following programs will prepare you well for your future career as an interior designer. But before we get to the rankings list, let's briefly go over what makes interior design programs unique. 

 

What's So Special About an Interior Design Program? 

Interior design schools teach a unique set of skills. These programs focus on the creative aspects of design, of course, but a good program also instills strong technical, business, and management skills in its students. 

If you attend a top interior design school, you'll learn the following:

  • Client-facing skills, such as researching clients' goals and project requirements
  • How to create 2D and 3D space plans
  • How to select colors, materials, textures, and decor
  • How to ensure space plans meet all public health, safety, and welfare requirements and codes
  • How to prepare project budgets and schedules
  • How to prepare construction documents
  • How to collaborate with other professionals, such as architects and engineers
  • How to oversee, manage, and supervise projects

Some of these programs offer a Bachelor of Arts (BA), while others offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or even a Bachelor of Science (BS). I'll talk more about the difference between these degrees at the end of this article. 

 

How Are These Interior Design Schools Ranked? 

To come up with a reliable list of the top 10 interior design schools, I aggregated common ranking lists from interior design industry experts (including DesignSchoolsHub and Design Intelligence). These lists compiled the rankings by surveying design professionals and asking which schools best prepare students' for a career in interior design.

Note that the following programs aren’t listed in any particular order. If a school is on this list, it’ll give you a top-notch interior design education, regardless of the order it appears in.

That said, I did separate the schools into two tiers based on their aggregate rankings. Keep in mind, though, that the most important consideration in choosing one of these schools is finding the one that best fits your own preferences and interests.

Now then, let's get to our rankings of the best colleges for interior design!

 

Best Interior Design Schools: Tier 1

These are the top-rated interior design schools, the cream of the crop. They're likely to be the most competitive of all interior design programs, so be cautious when putting together your applicationsyou don't only want to apply to schools with very low admissions rates! 

If you want more information about admissions statistics and requirements for any of these schools, just click their names.

 

New York School of Interior Design — New York, NY

  • Degrees Offered: BFA
  • Rankings: #5 by Design Intelligence, #4 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: $350 enrollment fee plus $1060 per credit (16-17 credits per full-time semester)

The New York School of Interior Design is the only school on this list that specializes solely in interior design education. It's also a top-ranked grad school for interior design, which indicates strong faculty, networking, and post-grad opportunities. Graduates of this institution have pretty great career prospects: 98% of students find jobs within six months of getting their degrees. 

If you aren't sure whether you want to commit to a full degree program, or if you don't yet feel prepared to apply to an interior design program, you can also enroll in one of the school's non-degree certificate programs to work on building up your portfolio.

 

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One of the best cities to be for any type of arts program. 

 

Parsons School of Design (The New School) — New York, NY

  • Degrees Offered: BFA
  • Rankings: #4 by Design Intelligence, #5 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: $25,230 per full-time semester

The Parsons School of Design (one of five colleges at The New School) boasts some well-developed networks in commerce and industry, so this school might be a particularly good option for those who wish to pursue commercial design. 

If you're not sure what you want to focus on, however, you can still find your niche here: Parsons offers more than 35 undergraduate and graduate programs (their grad programs are top-ranked as well). 

This institution states that they put a special focus on collaborative work, meaning you'd have the opportunity to complete group projects, perhaps even with students who belong to different degree programs. As interior designers have to work with many types of professionals to finish a job, this type of collaboration will be vital in helping prepare you for a career in design. 

 

Pratt Institute — New York, NY

  • Degrees Offered: BFA
  • Rankings: #2 by Design Intelligence, #2 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: Around $52,000 per year for full-time students

If you're hoping to get a job directly after graduation, then you'll definitely want to check out the Pratt Institute. In 2015, 100% of graduates (who responded to the survey) found jobs within just seven months after graduation. 

Or if you'd rather continue your education with a grad degree, you'll be pleased to know that 100% of graduates in May 2014 who applied to grad school were accepted to at least one program. (Unfortunately, the school doesn't offer any data on the quality of programs students attended.)

Like other schools on this list, the Pratt Institute boasts a top-rated graduate program for interior design. In this MFA program, you'll learn about topics such as sustainable practice, environmental quality, aesthetics, and changing technologies.

 

Rhode Island School of Design — Providence, RI

  • Degrees Offered: BFA
  • Rankings: #3 by Design Intelligence, #3 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: $51,800 per year for full-time students

One of the most famous and well-ranked arts and design schools in the US, RISD is located in the city of Providence, which has one of the highest concentrations of artists in the country. The interior design major is known as "interior studies" or "interior architecture" at RISD. 

RISD is particularly well-known for teaching students with practical instruction and coursework. If you're interested in eventually going to grad school, you should know that RISD also has a highly ranked grad program for interior design, through which you can earn an MA degree.

 

Savannah College of Art and Design — Savannah, GA

  • Degrees Offered: BFA
  • Rankings: #1 by Design Intelligence, #1 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: $37,575 per year for full-time students

SCAD is ranked highly across the board for all its art and design programs (not just interior design), ensuring you’ll have access to other artistic and creative resources on campus.

While the main campus is located in Savannah, SCAD also has interior design programs in Atlanta and Hong Kong, as well as online. This array of program locations means that you will have more opportunities to land internships in metropolitan areas and even study abroad. 

 


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Architecture's not bad for a design school, right? 

 

Best Interior Design Schools: Tier 2

These schools are generally lower-ranked than Tier 1 schools, but they still offer pretty strong interior design programs and tend to show up toward the top of many ranking lists. 

Like with the Tier 1 schools, just click any school name to get more information about admissions statistics and requirements.

 

Cornell University — Ithaca, NY

  • Degrees Offered: BS
  • Rankings: #7 by Design Intelligence, #8 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: $37,880 per year for full-time in-state students; $56,550 per year for full-time out-of-state students

Cornell is the only Ivy League school that offers an interior design program. This program has a special focus on the impact of design decisions on the environment.

 

Drexel University — Philadelphia, PA

  • Degrees Offered: BS
  • Rankings: #14 by Design Intelligence, #10 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: Around $18,000 per full-time academic quarter

Drexel's program in interior design combines the study of interior design with the study of art and art history. Students explore the behavioral aspects of interior design in addition to aesthetic aspects.

 

Fashion Institute of Technology — New York, NY

  • Degrees Offered: BFA
  • Rankings: #11 by Design Intelligence, #7 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: $3,435 per semester for full-time in-state students; $10,396 for full-time out-of-state students

Although FIT is well known for its fashion design programs, it also boasts a strong interior design program. It's the largest program of its kind in NYC, with around 400 students. If you attend FIT, you'll have the opportunity to work with top professionals in the area, such as architects and interior/lighting/graphic designers.

 

Syracuse University — Syracuse, NY

  • Degrees Offered: BFA, BID (Bachelor of Industrial Design)
  • Rankings: #22 by Design Intelligence, #9 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: $52,210 per year

Syracuse offers a program called Environmental and Interior Design, which is a bit broader than most other programs on this list.

At Syracuse, interior design students take studio courses in fine arts and crafts to supplement their main course of study. This program might be a good option for students who want to focus on design but also want parts of a more standard liberal arts experience.

 

University of Cincinnati — Cincinnati, OH

  • Degrees Offered: BS
  • Rankings: #6 by Design Intelligence, #6 by Design Schools Hub
  • Tuition: Not yet set for 2019 onwards as of this article's publication; we'll update as it becomes available

The interior design program at UC's School of Architecture and Interior Design emphasizes the physical, psychological, and social needs of people at work and at leisure.

The program is five years long—slightly longer than the standard four-year bachelor's degree programand requires one and a half years of cooperative education experience. Furthermore, about 70% of graduates get jobs within three months of graduating.

 

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Let's talk about how to choose the interior design program that's best for you. 

 

Picking the Right Interior Design Program for You: 5 Factors

Although there isn't a gigantic variety of interior design program choices out there, you still have to sift through a lot of information to pick a school that's right for you. Hopefully, this last has got you started on the right track.

That said, there are other things to keep in mind before committing to a particular interior design school. Here are five key factors to consider.

 

#1: Make Sure the School Is Accredited by the CIDA

First, you'll want to check that the interior design school you're interested in is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). Any program that claims to prepare you for a career in interior design should be approved by this organization.

All the schools on our list above are accredited by CIDA and state this fact very clearly on their websites. If you're not sure whether a particular school is accredited, contact its admissions office and ask.

 

#2: Choose a School That Offers the Degree You Want

Most interior design programs offer a BA or BFA, with some offering a BS. 

If you attend a BA program, you'll likely get more of a traditional liberal arts degree, meaning that the program strives to educate well-rounded artists and scholars. 

BS degrees, by contrast, are more strictly focused on their subject matter than BAs, so you'll take fewer general education courses.

Finally, BFAs are professional degrees; you'll take some general education courses, but the main focus of the program will be helping you hone and focus your artistic talent and voice.

 

#3: Decide Whether You Prefer a Flexible or Focused Program

Some of the programs above offer plenty of room for students to explore their artistic and design interests, and boast dozens of degree options and specializations, whereas others are more focused and therefore might be better fits for students who already know what interests they want to pursue.

Spend some time exploring the programs' websites to get a better feel for whether they're good fits for you. 

 

#4: Look for Portfolio Requirements You Can Meet

As with any design or arts program, you'll have to submit a portfolio as part of the application process for any of the schools listed above. Some of these portfolio requirements might seem reasonable, while others might be tough to meet. Explore each program's portfolio requirements well ahead of any application deadlines. 

 

#5: Take Location Into Account

Are there particular fields or specialties where you might have an advantage if you're living in a certain area? Also, think twice before applying to a school in an area you absolutely hate or are really unsure about.

 

Once you consider these five factors, you'll be better able to choose an interior design program that's right for you. The better the fit, the more successful you're likely to be in school and your career!

 

What's Next? 

If you're planning on going to an interior design school, you'll likely need to create a portfolio of your best work. Learn more about how to make a great portfolio that will definitely impress your dream school.

Once you're done putting together a list of schools to apply to, the next step should be figuring out how to pay for your education. Learn more about how to apply for financial aid, how to pay for school without loans, and how to get some of the top scholarships in the country

Thinking about going to an art school instead? Check out our guide to the best art schools in the US!

 

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Francesca Fulciniti
About the Author

Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She's worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.



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