Interior design involves more than scatter cushions and knick-knacks. You'll need artistic ability, a feel for space and an eye for light and colour. Learn more about the range of courses and qualifications on offer
Interior design is all about creating functional spaces in commercial and residential buildings. As an interior designer you'll design new, or renovate old spaces to improve functionality. You'll be involved in structural changes, lighting, fixtures and fittings and furnishings.
As competition for work in the multi-faceted design industry increases, students and graduates must ensure that they stand out to potential employers; to do this you'll need the right qualifications, whether undergraduate or Masters degrees, or short or online courses.
Discover how to become an interior designer…
Interior design degrees
To become a professional interior designer you'll need a relevant degree, foundation degree or HND. Industry employers prefer subjects such as architecture, fine art, furniture design, interior/spatial design, interior architecture, textile design and 3D design. You can enter the profession without a degree but you must have significant work experience.
The following undergraduate qualifications are recognised by the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID).
Anglia Ruskin University offer a BA in Interior Design. The programme takes three years to complete full time and aims to develop your creative vision. In your first year, core modules include 'Interior design studio 1 and 2', 'Spatial drawing', 'Design contextual studies,' and 'Building technology in interior design'. During your second year you'll study 'Interior design studio 3 and 4' and 'Debates and practices' and get to choose from five optional units. In your final year 'Interior design studio 5' brings this module to a close and you'll dedicate your time and effort to a research project and a major project. Assessment is through your portfolio and written and practical studio work. To be accepted onto the course you'll need at least two A-level passes at grade C or above in an art and design or media subject.
To gain a place on the three-year BA Interior Architecture course at the University of Brighton you'll need 136-120 UCAS points (AAB or BBB at A-level). Your first year acts as an introduction interior architecture and develops your skills, specialist knowledge and practices. Study units include 'Design: small, medium, large', 'Contexts: skills, techniques and processes' and 'History and theory in special design; an introduction'. Year two focuses on creative experimentation, optional modules include 'Home: making and unmaking', 'Thinking through drawing' and 'Transforming the existing'. Your final year aims to prepare you for entry into professional practice. You'll complete a dissertation and have the chance to exhibit your work in the arts and humanities graduate show.
Other undergraduate BIID-recognised interior design courses are available at:
- Birmingham City University
- Coventry University
- De Montfort University
- Falmouth University
- Leeds Beckett University
- London Metropolitan University
- University of Bedfordshire
- University of Bolton
- Buckinghamshire New University
- University of the Creative Arts
- University of Derby
- University of East London.
Masters in interior design
While a postgraduate qualification isn't necessary for entry to the profession, studying a Masters can enhance your industry knowledge, expand your list of contacts and aid career progression. Masters courses in interior design can also open doors for those from other art and design disciplines.
The following postgraduate qualifications are recognised by the BIID.
On the one-year Interior design MA at the University of Westminster, core units include 'Decoding the interior', 'Interior design case study', 'Introduction to design computing', 'Major thesis project', 'Retail design' and 'Thesis development'. The programme costs £8,000 and you'll need a good honours degree in architecture, interior design or a related design discipline for entry.
You'll need a 2:1 honours degree in interior design or architecture, or a 2:2 accompanied by an adequate portfolio to gain a place on the one-year MA Interior design programme at the University of East London (UEL). You'll study two core modules 'Interior design project - from context to detail' and 'Thesis: into the real', as well as optional units. Assessment is through design exercises, workshops, studio tutorials, presentations, essays and a portfolio. Fees are £6,900 in the 2017 academic year.
Other Masters courses in interior design are available at:
- Herriot-Watt University
- Manchester School of Art
- London College of Contemporary Arts (LCCA)
- Royal College of Art
- Sheffield Hallam University
- The University of Edinburgh
- University of Central Lancashire
- University of Lincoln
- University of Portsmouth.
Online and short courses
If you would like to fit your studies around work or personal commitments there are a range of interior design short and online courses available.
The National Design Academy (NDA) offers flexible, online interior design courses at diploma, undergraduate and Masters level. You choose your own start date and study at your own pace. The diploma takes six to nine months to complete and is perfect for enthusiastic interior design beginners. The BA covers a variety of modules and provides students the opportunity to focus on a specific element of design such as hotel or exhibition. For undergraduate entry you'll either need an NDA Level 3 Diploma, an NVQ in a related subject, an A-level in a design subject or successful completion of an art foundation year at college or university. The NDA Masters in Interior Design is awarded by Staffordshire University and you'll need a related undergraduate degree or equivalent for a place on the programme. Taking approximately 18 months to complete, modules cover advanced research methods, innovative technology in interior design, trend forecasting in interior design, cultural contexts in interior design, interior design practice management and a final Masters project.
The British College of Interior Design offers an online Professional Interior Design course, lasting 12 to 24 weeks. You'll be taught by established interior designers and learn about design history and theory, design communication and research and the science of interior space. You'll find out how to analyse client needs, develop design concepts and manage the finishing of interior spaces. Upon completion of the course you will receive a Diploma of Professional Interior Design.
The Interior Design Diploma course, provided by the Interior Design Institute, typically takes 24 weeks to complete, although you can take up to a year if necessary. The programme covers 12 modules and interactive assignments designed to help you build your first professional portfolio. Units include the visual language of design, the history of style decoration and architecture, design styles, space planning, lighting, colour, interior finishes, decorative textiles and fabrics, furniture, art and accessories, working with clients, visual communication and setting up an interior design business.
Coventry University, University of the Arts, London and Arts University Bournemouth also offer interior design-related short courses including design trends for interiors in a day, interior decoration and styling, and interior design - an introduction.
Interior design jobs
While qualifications are important, commercial or private clients, need to feel that they can trust an interior designer with their space - degrees and diplomas alone are not enough. You'll need relevant work experience in order to inspire confidence in your work.
Paid interior design internships are available with large, national interior design companies. For example Morgan Lovell runs The Foundation Programme, which aims to bring the next generation of talent into their business. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may run their own internship schemes but you'll usually need to apply for such opportunities with a speculative application. If you're struggling to find paid placements consider volunteering within the industry. This is an excellent way to build experience and contacts and demonstrates a passion for the job on your CV.
Interior designers usually work for architects, design consultancies or commercial companies as part of their in-house design departments. Self-employment is also an option with significant experience and a range of contacts. To make it as an interior designer you’ll need:
- creative flair
- good business sense
- budgeting/money management skills
- excellent communication skills and the ability to meet client briefs
- project management ability
- attention to detail.
With these skills and experiences you could also move into careers in:
- bathroom and kitchen design
- exhibition design
- furniture design
- space planning
- shop fitting
- visual merchandising.
Interior design apprenticeships are available but are hard to find. You'll need to do your own research to uncover opportunities. The government outlines that on a design apprenticeship you can work in one of four major areas:
- graphic and multimedia design
- interior design and construction-related bathroom and kitchen design
- fashion and textile design
- product design.