Artistic ability, a feel for space and an eye for light and colour are essential for a career as an interior designer. 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 spaces and renovate old ones to improve functionality. You'll be involved in structural changes, lighting, fixtures and fittings and furnishings.
You'll need the right qualifications to stand out in this increasingly competitive industry. Whether you opt for undergraduate study, a Masters degree or shorter online courses, find out more about the credentials that will help you start your interior design career.
Interior design degrees
To become a professional interior designer you'll need a relevant degree, foundation degree or HND. Industry employers prefer qualifications in relevant subjects, such as architecture, fine art, furniture design, interior/spatial design, interior architecture, textile design and 3D design.
Entry into the profession without a degree is possible, but you'll need significant work experience to impress.
The following undergraduate qualifications are recognised by the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID).
Anglia Ruskin University offers 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, modules include:
- Building Technology in Interior Design
- Design Contextual Studies
- Digital Media 1
- Interior Design Studio 1 and 2
- Spatial Drawing.
As well as choosing from six optional units in your second year, you'll study:
- Debates and Practices
- Digital Media 2
- Interior Design Studio 3 and 4.
In your final year, Interior Design Studio 5 brings this module to a close and you'll dedicate the majority of your time and effort to a major project, as well as the following optional modules:
- Research Project
- Research Assignment
- Working in the Creative Industries.
You'll be assessed through your portfolio, as well as your 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 Interior Architecture BA (Hons) course at the University of Brighton, you'll need 136-112 UCAS points (AAB to BBC at A-level). Your first year acts as an introduction to interior architecture and develops your skills, specialist knowledge and practices. First-year modules include:
- Design 1: An introduction to context
- Design 2: An introduction to narrative
- Interior Histories and Theories 1: An introduction
- Culture 1: Critical voices.
Year two focuses on creative experimentation. Core modules include:
- Design 3: Territory and catalyst
- Design 4: Experience and systems
- Culture 2: Identities
- Interior Histories and Theories 2.
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:
- Buckinghamshire New University
- Coventry University
- De Montfort University
- Falmouth University
- Leeds Beckett University
- London Metropolitan University
- Southampton Solent University
- Sheffield Hallam University
- University of Bedfordshire
- University of Bolton
- University of Derby
- University of the Creative Arts
- University of South Wales.
Masters in interior design
Studying a Masters 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 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, you'll complete the following modules:
- Decoding the Interior
- Interior Design Case Study
- Introduction to Design Computing
- Major Thesis Project
- Retail Design
- Thesis Development.
The programme costs £9,000 (£12,500 for international students), and you'll need a good honours degree in architecture, interior design or a related design discipline to apply.
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 four core modules:
- Interior Design Project: From Context to Detail
- Thesis: into the real
- Interior Design Theory 1
- Interior Design Theory 2
Assessment is through design exercises, workshops, studio tutorials, presentations, essays and a portfolio.
Other Masters courses in interior design are available at:
- Herriot-Watt University
- London College of Contemporary Arts (LCCA)
- Manchester School of Art
- Royal College of Art
- Sheffield Hallam University
- The University of Edinburgh
- University of Central Lancashire
- University of East Anglia (UEA)
- University of Lincoln
- University of Portsmouth.
To explore the range available, search postgraduate courses in interior design.
Online and short courses
If you'd like to further your studies but have other commitments, consider enrolling on an online short course.
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 diplomas take six to ten months to complete 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 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 De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), and you'll need a related undergraduate degree or equivalent to secure a place. Taking approximately 12 months to complete, modules include 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 also learn commercial skills, such as learning how to analyse client needs, develop design concepts and manage the finishing of interior spaces. Upon completion of the course, you'll receive a Diploma of Professional Interior Design.
Kingston University, University of the Arts, London and Arts University Bournemouth, among others, offer a range of interior design-related short courses.
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.