What should I look for in a Master’s Program in Interior Design?

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As the name implies, interior design addresses the functionality, aesthetics, ergonomics, décor, and furnishings of a building’s interior space.  The interior designer may create a suitable environment in a manufacturing facility or a comforting atmosphere in a large law firm. Homeowners to Fortune 500 corporations might hire an interior designer. The space’s purpose and use influence color, materials, furniture, lighting, and technology. For example, a law or investment firm may want acoustic treatment to confine voices to a room.

Ergonomics, which focuses on the physiological, anatomical, and even psychological characteristics of each room’s inhabitants and users, is essential. The designer must consider the interior environment and the physiology of the human body for maximum comfort. Therefore, knowledge of anatomy and the proportions of the body are helpful. Ergonomics affects those sitting for hours at a computer; the chair, desk height, keyboard, monitor, and lighting must provide the least strain on the worker. Attention to ergonomics increases productivity and employee absence due to work-related injuries from prolonged sitting or standing.

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What to keep in mind


Regardless of the degree’s level, associate to master’s, concentrate on programs accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). The Council reviews and accredits interior design programs to ensure that students receive a quality education. Founded in 1970, it accredits post-secondary interior design education in the United States and internationally. The non-profit organization maintains a rigid accreditation process that begins with an application, followed by a three-day site visit, peer review of the report, and CIDA’s decision. Currently, over 18,000 students enrolled in over 180 programs worldwide benefit from their quality assurance efforts. The site also has a directory of accredited schools.

What’s in a name?

As you research master’s programs, you’ll notice a variety of titles. For example:

  • Master of Interior Architecture
  • Master of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture and Design
  • Master of Interior Architecture and Product Design
  • Master of Science in Interior Architecture and Design
  • Master of Arts in Interior Design

Each program has variances in the coursework, which you must scrutinize to select the one that suits your aspirations. Do you want one that leans towards building codes, blueprints, and CAD instruction? The latter is a computer-aided design used to produce 2D and 3D space. Is learning about environmentally friendly products and design important? The School of Interior Architecture and Design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco teaches AutoCad and sustainable design. This degree is available on-campus and online. Choosing online may mitigate the hands-on experience using software and technology in design work.

An example of a program that leans toward building codes and construction is the MIA (Master of Interior Design) at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. This two-year graduate program includes classes in:

  • Codes and Building Regulation
  • Construction Documents
  • Design Theory
  • Research Methods in Interior Architecture
  • Design Criticism

National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ)

Explore programs that lead to taking the NCIDQ examination. This organization’s certification provides proof of competency to meet industry standards for aesthetics, public health, welfare, and safety of a building’s occupants. The exam consists of three sections:

  1. Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)
  2. Professional Exam
  3. Practicum Exam

The above sections cover seven core competencies of interior design:

  • Building Systems
  • Codes
  • Construction Standards
  • Contract Administration
  • Design Application
  • Professional Practice
  • Project Coordination

The Council must approve your eligibility (work experience required) before registration. Your decision to sit for the exam someday might influence the choice of school and curriculum. Students in the final year of a bachelor’s or master’s degree can take the IDFX exam.

Other Considerations

Does the school offer internships? Are there opportunities to visit local professional design or architecture firms? The Academy of Art mentioned above helped with the lobbies’ innovative design at the Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco.

Many schools have information on where alumni have landed prestigious positions. In this vein, does the school have placement services to help launch your career? How will the coursework provide job opportunities? Students versed in AutoCad will have the skills to create virtual design concepts. Or a career as a visualization specialist for those with a creative flair who want to design unique interior aesthetics.

One of the examples above is a Master of Interior Architecture and Product Design. The program may interest those who want to use the knowledge of lighting, industrial design, and furniture design. Kansas State University offers this degree that includes Digital Applications, Structural Systems, Design Workshop, Advanced Studio Programming, and Design Studios.

Additional Resources:

Top 50 Highest Paying Master’s Degrees

How important is a Master’s in Interior Design? Will people hire me without one?

Do Interior Designers Mostly Work for Themselves?

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What Is the Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Architect?

What Is the Difference Between a Degree in Interior Design and Interior Architecture?

Where Are the Best Paying Jobs With a Degree in Interior Design?

Do I Need a Degree to Be an Interior Decorator?

What does an Interior Design portfolio typically include?

What Is an Interior Designing Degree?