The profession of interior design is more complicated than simply choosing attractive paints, furnishings and accessories. Designers must also deal with issues of safety, environmental impact and accessibility, often while using computer-assisted software. Though many small technical and art schools have interior design programs, some major universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field. These programs attract students interested in what else these large schools have to offer, such as prestige, greater number of courses and increased diversity.
Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology offers a Bachelor of Science in interior design and a Master of Arts in design. The undergraduate degree is the only one of its kind among Ivy League schools. At the master’s level, students focus on sustainability and examine the historical and cultural aspects of design. Also in New York state, Syracuse University has a Bachelor of Fine Arts program in environmental and interior design. All students are encouraged to take a semester to study abroad. Opportunities are available in many locations, including London, Israel, Japan, Costa Rica, Egypt and Tanzania.
Along the East Coast, George Washington University in Washington, DC has both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts program in interior design. Before beginning the undergraduate program, students must complete prerequisites in fine arts and art history. The master’s program is for students who do not have a fine arts background, because students with bachelor's degrees in architecture or interior design are not accepted. During the first year of the Bachelor of Science interior design program at Virginia Tech, students take classes with architecture, industrial design and landscape architecture majors. Later in the program, students are encouraged to find internships with design or architecture firms and to study abroad.
In the middle part of the U.S., the undergraduate interior design program at Ohio State University focuses on the creative use of commercial, industrial and institutional spaces. The curriculum is structured, and there is little flexibility in choice of courses. At Michigan State University, the School of Planning, Design and Construction Interior Design offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The program has been in place since 1935. MSU’s Master of Arts in Environmental Design is for both prospective and practicing interior design specialists. Students choose from a number of options, including design with ecological systems, interiorscapes and golf course architecture.
Moving westward, California State University at Long Beach has a successful BFA interior design program. Ninety-five percent of graduates work in the field; many within Los Angeles and Orange counties. The University of Texas at San Antonio offers a Bachelor of Science in interior design through its College of Architecture. The program offers many enrichment programs, in addition to the required curriculum. Additional learning opportunities include study abroad, guest lectures and field trips. Service opportunities are found within community outreach programs and student organizations.
- Cornell University: Department of Design and Environmental Analysis: Academics
- George Washington University: Message From the Director
- Virginia Tech: Interior Design
- Ohio State University: Department of Design: Undergraduate Degree Programs
- Michigan State University: School of Planning, Design and Construction: Interior Design
- California State University, Long Beach: BFA Interior Design: Frequently Asked Questions
- The University of Texas at San Antonio: Interior Design: Program Enrichment
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Interior Designers Do
Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.