Learn how to channel your artistic ability and transform indoor spaces by studying an interior design course. Find out about the routes you can take to a career as an interior designer
What is interior design?
'Interior design is a discipline which embraces a range of practices concerning the spaces people inhabit,' explains David Littlefield, senior lecturer and programme leader MA Interior Architecture at the University of Westminster.
'Ranging from decorative treatments on one end of the spectrum, to highly interventionist proposals at the other, interior designers consider how to make spaces function more effectively or reimagine them performing differently. Within the field of 'interiors' practitioners address matters including surface treatment, furniture, lighting, spatial configuration, converting old spaces for new uses and considering the 'human scale' of design such as materials, texture, ergonomics and the ways that people occupy and move through space.'
To become an interior designer, you'll need the right qualifications and work experience to stand out in this competitive industry.
Whether you opt for undergraduate study, a Masters degree, an apprenticeship or shorter online courses, find out more about the credentials that will help you to kick-start your interior design career.
Do I need an interior design degree?
Industry employers prefer candidates to hold qualifications in relevant subjects, such as:
- fine art
- furniture design
- interior architecture
- interior/spatial design
- textile design
- 3D design.
Some undergraduate qualifications are recognised by the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD), which may make your CV more attractive to employers.
Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) offers the BA Interior Design. The programme takes three years to complete full time and aims to develop your creative vision. You also have the option of studying the course over four years, incorporating either a work placement or foundation year. In the final year of the programme you'll dedicate the majority of your time and effort to a major project, which will help prepare you for entry into industry.
To be accepted onto the course, you'll need 96 UCAS Tariff points from at least two A-level passes in an art, design or media subject.
Meanwhile, to gain a place on the three-year BA Interior Architecture at the University of Brighton, you'll need BBB to BCC at A-level. Your first year acts as an introduction to interior architecture and develops your skills, specialist knowledge and practices. Year two focuses on creative experimentation, while the final year aims to prepare you for entry into professional practice.
As well as completing a dissertation, you'll also get the chance to exhibit your work in the arts and humanities graduate show.
Interior design courses at undergraduate level cost £9,250 per year for UK students in 2024/25. International students will pay considerably more.
Search the full list of approved and accredited courses at universities throughout the UK, by visiting CSD - Find-a-Course.
Entry into the profession without an interior design degree is possible, but you'll need significant work experience and a professional portfolio to impress.
Can I study a Masters in interior design?
Studying a Masters degree isn't essential for an interior design career, but in doing so you'll enhance your industry knowledge, expand your list of contacts and aid your career progression.
You'll find that a Masters in interior design can also open doors for those from other art and design disciplines. Again, a selection of postgraduate qualifications are recognised by the CSD.
;Masters degrees give students the room to consider spatial design at advanced level, to investigate a design-related question in great depth, and to consider what sort of designer they want to be,' says David.
For example, on the one-year Interior Architecture MA at the University of Westminster, you'll complete modules such as Retail Design and Decoding the Interior. In 2024/25, the programme costs £9,500 for UK students and £17,000 for international students, and you'll need at least a 2:2 degree in architecture, interior architecture, interior design or a related design discipline to apply.
'At Westminster we encourage our students to form their own research question from which they develop their own unique project. Final thesis projects may result in anything from a film or installation to a major architectural intervention,' adds David.
You'll need a 2:1 honours degree in interior design or architecture, or significant relevant work experience accompanied by an adequate portfolio, to gain a place on the one-year MA Interior Design programme at the University of East London (UEL). Assessment is through design exercises, workshops, studio tutorials, presentations, essays and a portfolio.
In 2024/25 the one-year, full-time course (a part-time option is also available) costs £8,220 for UK students and £15,240 for international students.
Other Masters courses in interior design are available at other UK universities. Check the course outlines and module details to see which one best fits with your interests and career ambitions.
To explore the range available, search postgraduate courses in interior design.
Are online interior design courses available?
If you'd like to further your studies but have other commitments, consider enrolling onto an online course and study via the distance learning route.
The National Design Academy (NDA) offers a range of flexible, online interior design courses at diploma, undergraduate and Masters level. You choose your own start date and study at your own pace.
Diplomas typically take six to ten months to complete - although you can qualify for the In-Studio Diploma: Professional Interior Design (UK) within three months - and are perfect for enthusiastic interior design beginners.
The BAs cover a variety of modules and provide students with the opportunity to focus on a specific element of design such as heritage, retail or outdoor living. For undergraduate entry, you'll need an NDA Professional Diploma, a Level 3 Diploma, an NVQ in a related subject, an A-level in an art or design subject, or successful completion of an art foundation year at college or university.
The online NDA Masters in Interior Design is awarded by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), and you'll need a related undergraduate degree or equivalent to secure a place. Taking 18 months to two years to complete, tuition fees are set at £7,250.
The British College of Interior Design offers an online Professional Interior Design course, allowing you to study the 12 tutorials on a weekly or fortnightly basis, completing the distance learning course within a year.
You'll be taught by established interior designers and gain an understanding of design history and theory, design communication and research and the science of interior space. On completion of the course, you'll receive a Diploma of Professional Interior Design.
A range of interior design-related short courses are also offered by:
- Arts University Bournemouth (AUB)
- KLC School of Design
- Nottingham Trent University (NTU)
- University of the Arts London (UAL)
What about interior design apprenticeships?
While interior design apprenticeships are available, they are notoriously hard to find. You'll need to do your own research to uncover any 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.
For example, United in Design offer a year long graduate apprenticeship scheme to aspiring interior designers. Apprentices work in four London-based design companies, spending three months at each across the year, earning a wage of £22,000.
Morgan Lovell runs The Foundation Programme, which aims to bring the next generation of talent into their business. Apprenticeship programmes last two to six years depending on the discipline, at the end of the scheme you’ll receive an HDN or undergraduate degree.
To find out more about apprenticeship salaries and what to expect, see what is an apprenticeship?
Discover how to apply for an apprenticeship.
How do I get an interior design job?
While qualifications are important, commercial or private clients need to feel that they can trust an interior designer with their space. Therefore, degrees and diplomas alone are not enough. You'll need relevant work experience to inspire confidence in your work and begin your interior design career.
Paid interior design internships are available with large, national interior design companies.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may also 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 a paid placement, consider volunteering within the industry. It's an excellent way to build experience and contacts, while also demonstrating 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. You'll find that self-employment is also an option with significant experience and a range of contacts.
To make it as an interior designer, you'll need 'everything from hard skills such as proficiency in design software and an understanding of materials and their properties, to soft skills such as the ability to work in a multi-disciplinary team and fully interrogate a design brief,' says David. 'Good spatial designers must understand (and have a deep sensitivity towards) people as living, moving bodies (which do not behave in the ways seen in ergonomic diagrams).
Designers also need to understand something of the psychology of people, and the sense of identity, expectation and belonging through which people perceive the spaces around them.'
You'll also require:
- 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.