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15 Interior Architecture Schools to Consider for Your Degree

8 min read

Choosing the right program for your interior architecture degree is absolutely essential for shaping your future career in the field. Interior architecture and interior design, while closely related, offer distinct paths with different focuses and skill sets. Understanding these differences is key to selecting the best educational program to meet your goals. Interior architecture programs emphasize the technical and structural aspects of building design, bridging the gap between architecture and interior design. On the other hand, interior design programs focus on enhancing the aesthetic and functional aspects of interior spaces. This article explores the nuances between these two disciplines and highlights 15 respected interior architecture schools that offer comprehensive programs to prepare you for a successful career in this exciting yet challenging field.

How Do Interior Architecture and Interior Design Programs Differ?

Interior architecture programs emphasize the technical and structural aspects of building design, bridging the gap between architecture and interior design. An interior architecture major will learn about building systems, structural integrity, and the integration of interior spaces with architectural frameworks. They are trained to modify existing structures, design interior layouts that comply with building codes, and address the environmental impact of materials and construction methods. This holistic approach ensures that graduates can make significant alterations to buildings, considering both aesthetic and functional elements​​.

In contrast, interior design programs focus more on the aesthetic and functional enhancement of interior spaces. These programs prioritize the selection of furnishings, color schemes, lighting, and decorative elements to create visually pleasing and practical environments. While interior designers must have an understanding of basic structural principles, their primary concern is how the interior space will be experienced by its occupants. They are often involved in designing residential, commercial, and hospitality interiors, working closely with clients to reflect their preferences and lifestyles​.

Curriculum and Skills

The curriculum of an interior architecture program typically includes courses in architectural history, building systems, materials science, and advanced design studios. Students learn to create detailed construction drawings and specifications, develop sustainable design solutions, and use both analog and digital tools for design communication. Programs often culminate in complex design projects that require students to integrate their technical knowledge and creative skills to solve real-world architectural challenges.

On the other hand, an interior design program prepares graduates to optimize spaces. Each four year degree offers courses in color theory, furniture design, space planning, and textiles. These programs emphasize creative problem-solving and the use of design principles to enhance the functionality and aesthetics of interior spaces. Students learn to create mood boards, select appropriate materials, and develop client presentations. Beyond the design studio, they also study human behavior and ergonomics to design spaces that improve user experience and well-being.

Career Paths and Opportunities

Those who hold interior architecture degrees often pursue careers as interior architects, building designers, or project managers in architectural firms. They are equipped to handle large-scale renovations, adaptive reuse projects, and interior modifications that require an understanding of structural systems and building codes. Their ability to blend technical proficiency with design aesthetics makes them valuable in multidisciplinary teams working on complex architectural projects​.

In contrast, graduates of interior design schools typically become interior designers, decorators, or space planners. Those who complete an interior design program may work in design firms, retail environments, or as independent consultants. Their expertise in creating cohesive and appealing interior environments allows them to focus on residential, commercial, and hospitality projects. Interior designers often collaborate with architects and builders to ensure that their design visions are realized within the structural constraints of a building​​ as well as building regulations.

15 Respected Interior Architecture Schools to Consider for Your Degree

The Corcoran’s Interior Architecture (IA) Program

The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at The George Washington University offers a comprehensive Interior Architecture program, which is the only CIDA-accredited program in Washington, D.C. This program is highly regarded for its emphasis on fostering creativity and pushing the boundaries of design. The curriculum integrates both conceptual thinking and the practical design process, leveraging its location within a major research university and the vibrant arts scene of the nation’s capital.

The Corcoran offers two other degrees in Interior Architecture: the Master of Arts (MA) and the Master of Fine Arts (MFA). The MA program is designed for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree in interior design, interior architecture, or architecture. It aims to advance their operational skills and knowledge through a focused, one-year, 30-credit curriculum. This program emphasizes teamwork, leadership, and social responsibility, preparing students for leadership roles in the industry. It also prepares students to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification Examination (NCIDQ) and join professional interior design organizations should they choose to do so. The MFA program, on the other hand, is tailored for students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than interior design or architecture. This studio-based curriculum focuses on teaching various aspects of interior design, theories, and technical skills necessary for professional practice.

Students in the Corcoran’s IA program benefit from access to internationally recognized faculty, hands-on studio projects, and opportunities to participate in prestigious design competitions. The program also offers the chance to study abroad in culturally rich cities such as Berlin, Rome, London, Paris, and Copenhagen, providing a global perspective on design. For more information about the Corcoran Interior Architecture program, you can visit their official website.

University of Washington – Seattle Campus

The University of Washington in Seattle is touted for its comprehensive interior architecture program. This program offers strong academic resources and provides students with a vibrant campus life in one of the most dynamic cities in the United States. The curriculum emphasizes both theoretical and practical aspects of interior architecture, preparing students to excel in various professional settings. With access to cutting-edge facilities and a network of experienced faculty, students at the University of Washington can expect a rigorous and enriching educational experience. Learn more.

University of Maryland – College Park

The University of Maryland – College Park is home to a well-regarded interior architecture program that offers extensive opportunities for both practical and theoretical learning. The program is designed to equip students with the skills needed to succeed in the professional world, with a curriculum that balances design principles, technical skills, and innovative thinking. Students benefit from the university’s robust academic resources and a supportive learning environment that encourages creativity and critical thinking. Learn more.

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University of Oregon

Located in Eugene, the University of Oregon offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in interior architecture. The program is known for its supportive academic environment and robust curriculum that emphasizes both design and technical proficiency. Students are encouraged to develop their creative skills while also gaining a strong foundation in the practical aspects of interior architecture. The university’s commitment to providing a well-rounded education makes it a top choice for aspiring interior architects. Learn more.

California State Polytechnic University – Pomona

California State Polytechnic University – Pomona offers a highly regarded interior architecture program that emphasizes practical skills and theoretical knowledge. The program is designed to prepare students for successful careers in interior architecture, with a curriculum that covers a wide range of topics from design theory to material selection and lighting plans. The university’s strong focus on hands-on learning and real-world applications makes it a popular choice among students. Learn more.

Auburn University

Auburn University’s interior architecture program is well-regarded for providing students with a solid foundation in design principles and practical experience. The program emphasizes both the theoretical and practical aspects of interior architecture, ensuring that students are well-prepared for professional practice. Auburn’s supportive academic environment and commitment to excellence make it a top choice for students seeking a comprehensive education in interior architecture. Learn more.

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers a rigorous interior architecture program praised for its quality education. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a strong foundation in both the theoretical and practical aspects of interior architecture, preparing them for successful careers in the field. The university’s commitment to academic excellence and supportive learning environment make it an excellent choice for aspiring interior architects. Learn more.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln is known for its excellent interior architecture program, which emphasizes both design and technical skills. The program provides students with a comprehensive education that covers all aspects of interior architecture, from concept development to material selection and project management. UNL’s strong academic resources and supportive faculty help students achieve their professional goals. Learn more.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University offers a reputable interior architecture program that focuses on both theoretical and practical aspects of the field. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for diverse career paths, with courses that cover design theory, technical skills, and real-world applications. Syracuse’s commitment to providing a well-rounded education ensures that graduates are well-prepared for the challenges of professional practice. Learn more.

University of Houston

The University of Houston offers a solid interior architecture program within a vibrant campus life. The program provides students with a well-rounded educational experience that includes both theoretical and practical learning opportunities. UH’s strong academic resources and experienced faculty help students develop the skills needed to succeed in the field of interior architecture. Learn more.

Marywood University

Marywood University, located in Scranton, PA, offers a well-rounded interior architecture program that emphasizes creativity and innovation. The program provides students with a comprehensive education that covers all aspects of interior architecture, from design principles to technical skills. Marywood’s supportive academic environment and commitment to excellence make it a great choice for students interested in interior architecture. Learn more.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University is known for a comprehensive interior architecture degree program that prepares students for various professional opportunities in the field. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including design theory, technical skills, and practical applications, ensuring that graduates are well-equipped to enter the workforce. Texas Tech’s strong academic resources and experienced faculty provide students with the support they need to succeed. Learn more.

University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington provides a strong interior architecture program that focuses on preparing students for professional practice. The curriculum includes a wide range of courses that cover both theoretical and practical aspects of interior architecture, ensuring that students are well-prepared for the workforce. UTA’s experienced faculty and robust academic resources support students in achieving their educational and professional goals. Learn more.

Miami University – Oxford

Miami University – Oxford offers a quality interior architecture program with a comprehensive curriculum that focuses on both practical and theoretical knowledge. The program prepares students for diverse career paths in interior architecture, with courses that cover design theory, technical skills, and real-world applications. Miami University’s commitment to providing a well-rounded education ensures that graduates are well-equipped for professional success. Learn more.

Louisiana State University (LSU)

Louisiana State University offers a well-rounded interior architecture program that emphasizes design principles and practical skills. The program provides students with a comprehensive education that covers all aspects of interior architecture, from concept development to material selection and project management. LSU’s supportive academic environment and commitment to excellence make it a top choice for students interested in interior architecture. Learn more.

Final Thoughts on Attending an Interior Architecture School

Choosing the right program for your interior architecture or interior design degree is a critical step toward achieving your career goals. Each program offers unique strengths and focuses, whether it’s the technical and structural training provided by interior architecture programs or the aesthetic and functional emphasis of interior design programs. As you explore your options, consider what aspects of design most excite you and align with your career aspirations.

Whether you are drawn to the creative challenges of modifying existing structures or the artful curation of interior spaces, there is a program that will suit your needs. By carefully researching and selecting a program that fits your personal and professional objectives, you can set yourself on a path to success.

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