Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
November, 2015

Discover how a flexible online postgraduate course in interior design can take your career to the next level and ensure that you're up to date with current trends

If you are a creative person who likes to keep on top of the latest developments in design, then you'll know that things are always changing in this dynamic field.

Indeed, holistic thinking is vital when it comes to working on design projects. No matter what niche area you've chosen to work in, you'll need to have the required depth of understanding to produce the best solution to a problem.

Anthony Rayworth, director of studies at the National Design Academy (NDA), explains how postgraduate courses in interior design are becoming more popular every year, as competition for work in this multi-faceted and ever changing industry increases.

Among the many alternatives on offer, distance learning courses provide greater flexibility than their classroom-based counterparts. Read on to find out if this method of study and design specialisation is for you.

What are the postgraduate options?

Campus-based one-year, full-time, taught postgraduate courses in the subject are offered by Birmingham City University, The Glasgow School of Art and the Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University, among others.

While some of these programmes can also be studied part time, the ability to study an MA Interior Design online makes the qualification from institutions such as the NDA even more appealing to graduates who already work in the creative arts and design sector.

NDA graduate Sushma Serigara is thankful that she chose to go down this route. 'I think that the NDA is a great outlet for online learning; one that is well equipped for this type of study.'

Sushma has even recommended the course to a few of her colleagues who are already pursuing study elsewhere in other specialties. She added, 'This is due to the lack of organisations that offer a Masters degree in interior design with this kind of ease. Many of them are now keen to join the NDA programme as soon as they have completed their current engagements.'

Anthony reveals that the subject area tends to attract those who:

  • currently work in the industry, with ambitions to progress to management level;
  • run their own interior design business and would like to develop their skills in order to create design solutions for clients with ever-changing demands;
  • would like to embark on academic study at PhD level.

Studying at postgraduate level is not just about the 'here and now' - it is about how we can support the future of the industry

What do courses involve?

Despite being predominantly an online course, the programme still manages to incorporate practical design skills. It will usually focus on the present and future requirements of the design profession, providing designers with an opportunity to take their study on to a higher level, while developing knowledge and skills relevant to the industry. The main focus is on the analysis and evaluation of material as well as the development of critical thinking.

Courses that allow students to work on a specific project relevant to their interests or those of their employer are an absolute must. This ensures that they gain industry experience and an awareness of current attributes, such as trend forecasting and practice management.

'Studying at postgraduate level is not just about the "here and now" - it is about how we can support the future of the industry and attain a sense of how this will develop over time,' says Anthony.

What skills and knowledge do students gain?

Students will be able to develop advanced research skills, learn to critically analyse current or emerging interior design trends and develop their communication skills; all requirements for those working at a high level in the sector.

A key component of any Masters degree in the discipline is interior design practice management. Students will be taught about good business practice, how to maintain client relationships and prepare them for the real world.

'Knowledge comes with interest,' states Anthony. 'Postgraduate study is all about supporting a learner's individual interests, approach to study and ultimately, where they see themselves within such an expansive industry.'

At this level, students are required to direct their own path. While there are prescribed elements to the study, the underlying emphasis will be proposed by the student, with support from their tutor.

Practical skills are not so much taught, but advanced. Students are expected to bring a set of skills developed through prior learning or relevant work experience. These skills will then be expanded upon through further study and the completion of an ambitious project.

How do courses prepare students for the workplace?

The Masters in interior design allows students to increase their understanding of the subject to a much higher and deeper level, making them highly suitable for a management role and progression within this diverse industry. Alternatively, they may choose to continue their research and embark on a PhD in an area of their choice.

In terms of practical skills for the workplace, topics such as trend forecasting, practice management, innovative technology and understanding cultural contexts will enable the student to become more involved in global industry requirements.

NDA graduates often decide to start their own commercial practice, which could be within a range of industries, or work as a qualified interior designer at management level within an interior design or architectural practice. There are also opportunities to work in-house for a large retailer.