Schools

16 Interior Design Schools Worth Applying to

Decided you want to be an interior designer? Consult AD PRO’s list of the top interior design schools to consider

The Savannah College of Art and Design received the top ranking on DesignIntelligence’s list of the most admired interior design schools in 2020.

Photo: Courtesy of SCAD

If you are considering applying to interior design schools, you’ll want to research all your options first. As more states continue to require licensure for interior designers—which typically comprises a combination of classroom education, professional experience, and passing a standardized exam—formal education is becoming increasingly important in the interior design profession. Certain schools on this list are recognized by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, or CIDA, which means they have been found to meet the highest standards for interior design education—a designation that may help ensure students are learning what the industry considers to be the fundamentals.

Regardless of an aspiring designer’s exact career path and whether licensure is a goal, the right undergraduate programs in interior design or interior architecture are sure to provide the sort of rigorous training and access to internship opportunities that will set a student up for success. Here are 16 programs to know.

Editor’s note: The costs mentioned for each school are an estimate of the tuition plus mandatory fees, and do not include room and board. Costs will vary from student to student. The job placement statistics shown here feature the most recently available data for each program or university, if program-specific data was not available.

Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design consistently appears on top lists for interior design colleges near and far; in fact, 2020 marks the eighth time in 12 years that it received the top ranking on DesignIntelligence’s list of best interior design schools. SCAD also ranked second on the prestigious Red Dot Design Rankings in 2019. The program encourages collaborative projects, innovation, critical thinking, effective communication, and professional ethics. Of course, SCAD’s offerings extend beyond its classrooms. Each year, SCAD hosts SCADstyle, a three-day event filled with industry-renowned designers, architects, and editors. Plus, its collaborative design studio called SCADpro offers a way for top students to gain real-world experience. Career prep is also paramount; résumé and portfolio development, mock interviews, and self-promotion are all built into the curriculum. And satellite campuses in Atlanta and Lacoste, France, offer students access to a global education.

Program: Interior Design

Location: Savannah

Degree offered: BFA, M.A., and MFA

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes. High-level internships are encouraged in Atlanta and Savannah.

Cost: $38,340

Job placement: 99% placement in design positions or enrollment in graduate school for interior design graduates

Notable alumni: Christian Sottile, Maruja Fuentes

The New School, Parsons School of Design

With the very first interior design curriculum launched in the U.S. in 1906, Parsons has long framed interior design as an “intellectually rigorous creative force in everyday life.” Today this research-based, intensive curriculum provides a solid foundation for a career in interior design. As part of Parsons’s School of Constructed Environments, interior design students work closely with faculty, peers, and outside professionals to design spaces that consider sustainability, diversity, and well-being. Coursework ranges from study of materiality, art history, and design theory to hand drawing, renderings, and three-dimensional modeling. While Parsons offers a four-year BFA as well as graduate programs for concentrated fields, its two-year Associate of Applied Science interior design degree is a great option for anyone with prior college education. But, no matter which program they choose, graduates will leave well prepared to pursue work in interior, lighting, set, event, and exhibition design, as well as historic preservation.

Program: Interior Design

Location: New York City

Degree offered: BFA

CIDA accredited: No

Local opportunities: Abundant. Parsons’s excellent connections and location give students access to influential firms and showrooms, museums, galleries, and auction houses.

Cost: $25,861

Job placement: 87% employment for Parsons School of Design graduates at large within the first year after graduation.

Notable alumni: Victoria Hagan, Jamie Drake, Mario Buatta, Albert Hadley, Angelo Donghia, Bob Williams

Cornell University

At Cornell, interior design is taught through the Design and Environmental Analysis program, part of the College of Human Ecology’s Human Centered Design Department. The STEM-certified program offers a flexible curriculum that requires students to complete foundational courses before focusing on electives that support individual educational goals. These specializations are organized around three primary research themes: design strategy and innovation, sustainable futures, and health and well-being. Throughout the Human Centered Design Department, tools and processes that are common in humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences are incorporated into each curriculum, offering a holistic and scholarly approach to design. Alongside their chosen area of expertise, students may also pursue a minor, honors thesis, or off-campus study. The D+EA program boasts faculty from a wide spectrum of disciplines and emphasizes innovation.

Program: Design and Environmental Analysis

Location: Ithaca, New York

Degree offered: B.S.

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Some. Many students participate in off-campus study or summer internships, typically in New York City, Washington, D.C., or abroad.

Cost:  $39,466. Because the College of Human Ecology is a state contract college within the university, New York state residents are eligible for the in-state fee.

Job placement: All Spring 2021 graduates of the program were employed by December of that year.

Notable alumni: Art Gensler, Richard Meier

New York School of Interior Design

With its comprehensive interior design programs and focus on the liberal arts, NYSID produces apt critical thinkers who can look at design through social, cultural, and historical lenses. Students learn about presentation as well as business, legal, and administrative necessities, garnering effective communication skills and technical proficiency. NYSID’s curriculum also satisfies educational requirements for membership in industry associations and prepares them for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification Examination.

Another reason NYSID is one of the best interior design schools? Its variety of programs. While its Bachelor of Fine Arts or Associate in Applied Science offers ample flexibility to earning an interior design degree, the school’s one-year Basic Interior Design Certificate Program offers a time-efficient way to learn the fundamentals. With required internships, study-abroad programs, and more than 100 faculty members who are practicing designers (with firms that include Gensler, HOK, and Perkins+Will), NYSID amply prepares graduates to enter the real world of interior design.

Location: New York City

Degree offered: AAS, BFA

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Many. NYSID’s extensive network of connections means internships and professional networking is easy to access.

Cost: $1,095 tuition per credit

Job placement: 95% of undergraduates, 98% of graduates, and 100% of MFA graduates have received jobs within 12 months of graduation.

Notable alumni: Rose Tarlow, Penny Drue Baird

Many faculty members at the New York School of Interior Design are practicing designers at firms such as Gensler, HOK, and Perkins+Will.

Photo: Courtesy of the New York School of Interior Design

Syracuse University

At Syracuse University, Environmental and Interior Design students explore the art and architecture of design in a studio environment that mimics professional settings. Touted as one of the “Most Admired Interior Design Schools” by DesignIntelligence, Syracuse’s Environmental and Interior Design Program (EDI) encourages students to become creative problem solvers by challenging the status quo, understanding the various impacts of design, and embracing an acute awareness for social responsibility. The focus here is on cross-disciplinary philosophies and projects in addition to a broad liberal arts education. Syracuse’s interior design department also teaches visualization and communications skills alongside in-depth technical methods. Students are encouraged to study abroad in their junior year in London or Florence, and to pursue internships in Syracuse, New York City, and beyond.

Program: Environmental and Interior Design

Location: Syracuse, New York

Degree offered: BFA

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes, though students are also encouraged to look for opportunities beyond Syracuse.

Cost: $55,920

Job placement: 86% employment for Syracuse graduates

Notable alumni: Thom Filicia, Ian Schrager, Sol Le Witt

Drexel University

As part of the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel’s interior design degree blends design theory with real-world experience and rigorous professional preparation. General education requirements, combined with art, art history, and core interior design courses, set the stage for complex design studios. From there, human experience, materials, and form, and sustainability drive the course forward, teaching students how to bring a responsible approach to the creative process. By the time they earn their degree from the interior design program, students will be well-equipped to take on their senior project, a three-quarter capstone that allows undergraduates to explore a specific topic of interest.

Experiential learning is also paramount here and is executed through a professional co-op program, where students work at a firm for six months during their junior year. Drexel also emphasizes sustainable practices as inherent to contemporary design, and offers a minor in Sustainability in the Built Environment. Opportunities to study abroad abound, with programs in Sydney and Seoul as well as a shorter, seven-week studio in Denmark.

Program: Interior Design (undergraduate); Interior Architecture and Design (graduate)

Location: Philadelphia

Degree offered: B.S., M.S.

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes. Undergraduate students must complete a six-month professional co-op work experience, and internships are encouraged.

Cost: $17,956–$18,405 (plus $790 per-term fee) for undergraduates; $1,088 per credit hour for graduate students (plus $140–$280 fee)

Job placement: 91% of undergraduate students in 2019; 93% of graduate students

Notable alumni: Douglas Ellington, Maxfield Parrish

Fashion Institute of Technology

As one of the best interior design schools, the Fashion Institute of Technology has a solid track record of turning out creative professionals who go on to become successful entrepreneurs and artists. For its interior design program, the magic lies in its emphasis on practical skills and environmental standards through multidisciplinary studies and hands-on projects. Helping students gain proficiency in the latest technology, business, and presentation skills—as well as a firm foundation in the liberal arts—is an integral focus of the program, the largest of its kind in New York City. In addition to learning the fundamentals of design history and theory, students will develop a thorough understanding of lighting, computer modeling, and materials.

Though the Fashion Institute of Technology’s interior design program is led by top talent, BFA-seeking undergraduates will get some more real-world experience through the two-semester capstone. Here, students are asked to create a design project, which will ultimately be evaluated by a jury of professionals. Throughout the capstone, each student is paired with a faculty member and industry mentor to further enhance their education. Alternatively, the Fashion Institute of Technology also offers a two-year AAS program, which will prepare students for an entry-level position in the industry.

Program: Interior Design

Location: New York City

Degree offered: AAS,  BFA

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes. Students have many opportunities to work and network with high-profile designers and architects at top firms such as Gensler and Rockwell Group.

Cost: $10,846 out-of-state; $3,585 in-state

Job placement: 68% for school-wide associate degrees, 88% for school-wide bachelor’s degrees.

Notable alumni: Kathryn Gustafson, Cathy Hobbs, Jhane Barnes, Calvin Klein

University of Cincinnati

With a curriculum focused on problem-solving, formal design skills, and historical and technical knowledge, the School of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati grounds students in academics while prepping them for the ever-evolving needs of professional life. This five-year program is linked to the university’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) program, starting with a common curriculum for the first three semesters. From there, students will be asked to work on an array of industrials, ranging from residential and commercial to cultural and health institutions such as hospitals, theaters, and places of worship. Though the university’s interior design program offers a comprehensive curriculum, it also offers real-world experience through its co-op program and optional portfolio review during the application process.

Program: School of Architecture and Interior Design

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Degree offered: B.S.

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes, some. The city offers a variety of cultural resources and work opportunities. Required co-ops are arranged with firms all over the world.

Cost: $13,855 out-of-state; $7,984 in-state per term

Job placement: 80% employment for School of Architecture and Interior Design graduates

Notable alumni: Michael Graves, Eva Maddox

Rhode Island School of Design

Known for its dedication to arts education, RISD’s interior architecture program is consistently considered one of the best interior design schools. Made up of 100 undergraduate and graduate students from around the world—plus 25 faculty members—RISD’s program offers an intimate setting to learn basic design principles, communicate ideas through drawings, and navigate a collaborative work environment. At its core, RISD’s interior design degree offers a unique look at the field, creating an enlightening dialogue about architecture, conversation, and design. Unlike other interior design programs, RISD’s curriculum focuses less on the application of materials and more about the holistic design of buildings.

While adaptive reuse and transformation of existing buildings is a key pillar of the program, the faculty is committed to taking a sustainable approach to the coursework. For example, Professor Liliane Wong incorporates her interest in affordable housing into her teaching, proving that great design is for everyone, or in her words, “not just for people who can afford to pay for it.”

Program: Interior Architecture

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Degree offered: BFA, M.A., MDes

CIDA accredited: No

Local opportunities: Some. With easy access to both New York City and Boston, plus a strong arts community and culture in Providence, internship opportunities aren’t far away.

Cost: $55,220

Job placement: 99% employment (including full-time, part-time, and freelance employment or internships) for RISD graduates at large

Notable alumni: Nader Tehrani, Michael Maltzan

RISD’s highly ranked interior architecture program asks students to specialize in theater, exhibition, or retail design. 

Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Kansas State University

The interior design program at K-State explores what it describes as the “intersections between human ecological theory, design theory, and interior design practice.” With an emphasis on human well-being, sustainability, and evidence-based strategies, the program helps students develop competency in lighting, acoustics, codes and regulations, resiliency, construction technologies, and more. Through its professional mentorship program and options to study abroad in Guatemala, Great Britain, Korea, Italy, and France, graduates complete their education with a well-rounded worldview and understanding of their role in the spectrum of design. Though K-State’s interior design program boasts a comprehensive curriculum, the school’s mentor programs—as well as student chapters of ASID, IID, and NEWH Hospitality Industry Network—offer ample networking opportunities.

Program: Interior Design

Location: Manhattan, Kansas

Degree offered: B.S.

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Some. The school’s DesignExpo brings together students and professionals from firms throughout the country, leading to summer and academic internships or postgraduate employment.

Cost: $25,560 out-of-state; $9,489 in-state

Job placement: 93% employment for interior design graduates

Notable alumni: Jo Staffelbach Heinz

Auburn University

Students must be formally accepted into the competitive interior design program at Auburn, which is part of the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences. At the end of the first full academic year, all pre–interior design students are evaluated; the top 36 are admitted into the program. During the nine-semester curriculum, students can expect weekly labor-intensive design studio sessions and must complete a professional internship. Though Auburn University’s interior design program is highly selective and comprehensive, students can enhance their curriculum with electives in finance, healthy equity, and women’s studies, among other subjects. They can also earn the LEED Green Associate credential and EDAC (Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification) credentials for health care settings through the program. Study abroad in Italy is strongly encouraged; academic tours to New York, Rome, and London are also available.

Program: Interior Design

Location: Auburn, Alabama

Degree offered: B.S.

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Some local internships.

Cost: $15,993 out-of-state; $5,913 in-state per semester. Students of the Interior Design and Pre-Interior Design programs will also be charged a professional fee of $2,091 per semester.

Job placement: 68% of interior design students, according to a study that was administered during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notable alumni: Samuel Mockbee, Paul Rudolph

Virginia Tech

Theory, research, and practical knowledge, combined with a tradition of iteration and making, are top characteristics of Virginia Tech’s interior design program. Students learn how to develop spaces that consider health, safety, and welfare, and comply with various codes and regulations. With courses spanning from History in Interior Design to Sustainable Design and Biophilia, Virginia Tech’s courses honor the industry’s past, present, and future. (Plus, the curriculum has special courses dedicated to understanding logistics like construction documents.) As part of the School of Architecture and Design, interior design students at Virginia Tech interact regularly with peers and faculty through the Digital Mentorship Collaborative as well as Studio Collective, a student-run design journal. Several opportunities to study abroad in Europe also enhance the academic experience, including a semester-long residency program in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.

Program: Interior Design

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia

Degree offered: B.S., M.S. Arch

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Some. Students frequently study abroad or intern in other locations.

Cost: $33,857 out-of-state; $14,175 in-state. Architecture and design students are also required to pay an annual $1,500 fee.

Job placement: 94% employment for interior design graduates

Notable alumni: Martin Felsen, Charles W. Steger

Pratt Institute

Offering one of the first interior design programs in the country, Pratt is widely recognized for being a one of the best interior design schools. This architecturally oriented program, which is part of the School of Design, emphasizes spatial design and surface embellishment, always with a sensitivity to the human occupants. Once they’ve completed their first-year Foundation courses, students begin studio classes that focus on collaboration in a competitive setting in their sophomore year. Come junior year, students can study at the Danish International School during their spring semester. The Copenhagen-based program features extensive study tours throughout Scandinavia. With a firm commitment to social and environmental responsibility and professional ethics, the department prepares students for entry into the workforce, advanced study, professional associations, and the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.

Program: Interior Design

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Degree offered: BFA

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes. Pratt’s location in New York means students have ample opportunity to work with high-level professional firms and showrooms.

Cost: $51,754

Job placement: 94% of survey respondents were employed within a year of graduating, while six percent were accepted into a graduate program.

Notable alumni: Annabelle Selldorf, Peter Zumthor

The Pratt Institute’s well regarded interior design program prepares students to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute

Florida State University

FSU’s Department of Interior Architecture and Design has been one of the leading interior design colleges for over 40 years. In fact, the program was ranked third in CollegeRank’s 2022 list of best interior design degrees. As part of the College of Fine Arts, this option takes a human-centered approach to interior design, teaching students how to build functional and sustainable environments that have a positive impact on the world around them. The program consists of sequential learning, providing education in all aspects of interior design for residential, health care, hospitality, commercial, and low-income housing projects.

FSU’s curriculum also places a heavy emphasis on real-world experience, with 100% of students having at least one internship before graduation. Additionally, the four-year program equips graduates to sit for the NCIDQ exam, and to become licensed as interior designers in the state of Florida.

Program: Department of Interior Architecture and Design

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Degrees offered: B.S., B.A.

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes. Required internships are arranged with local interior design and architectural firms, in other Florida cities, and throughout the U.S.

Cost: $18,796 out-of-state; $5,666 in-state

Job placement: 89% of students were employed within nine months of graduation.

Notable alumni: Grant Gribble, Lisa Kinch Waxman

Thomas Jefferson University

The robust interior design program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia offers a functional and technical education peppered with interdisciplinary courses on topics such as human behavior, sustainable design, construction detailing, building systems, and more. Studios and coursework synthesize creative experimentation and research-driven problem-solving. But, at its core, Thomas Jefferson University works hard to give its students a comprehensive and diverse look into the industry. Not only do its design classes incorporate hand drawing, model building, and digital methods, but each course offers an in-depth look at commercial, residential, institutional, and other building types. Students can also pursue secondary specialization in business, construction management, textile design, historic preservation, or photography. Collaborative work reflects real-world design processes, and students may pursue secondary specializations in business, construction management, textile design, historic preservation, or photography. Optional study-abroad programs in Copenhagen and Rome round out the student experience.

Program: Interior Design

Location: Philadelphia

Degree offered: B.S., M.S.

CIDA accredited: Yes

Local opportunities: Yes. Internships, professional organizations, and professional partnerships are readily accessible.

Cost: $41,900. Students of the College of Architecture & the Built Environment are also required to pay a $773 studio fee.

Job placement: 80% of the interior design students who graduated in May 2020 and responded to the survey (83% response rate) were employed in the field by January 2021.

Notable alumni: Ghislaine Viñas, Kim Wannop

School of Visual Arts

Touted as one of the “Most Hired-From Interior Design Schools” by DesignIntelligence, SVA’s interior design program lays the foundation for a long career ahead. From the first day of school, students will have access to their own desk and an immaculate computer lab, mimicking the dynamics of a design firm. In addition to a comprehensive curriculum, which blends new technology with age-old practices of drawing and drafting, SVA also gives its students the opportunity to present their work to an assortment of international-acclaimed designers. (Plus, architects and editors are often invited to join the conversation, offering major networking potential.) SVA’s interior design degree meets all the requirements to sit for the NCIDQ exam, offering yet another way for students to bolster their resumes.

Program: Interior Design: Built Environments

Location: New York City

Degree Offered: BFA

CIDA Accredited: Yes

Local Opportunities: Yes. SVA’s administrative and faculty can assist with finding summer and part-time internships.

Cost: $22,500 per semester, plus a $1,140 annual fee.

Job placement: As of January 2020, 61.1% of graduates are fully employed, while 38.8% have enrolled in graduate school.

Notable alumni: Genevieve Gorder