Best Interior Design Schools in the USA
The interior design profession deals with interior spaces of buildings with emphasis on the physical, psychological and social needs of building users. This article ranks the top 10 best interior design schools in the United States for the provision of higher education in interior and spatial design. Comprehensive analysis has been undertaken in order to score interior design schools on a quantitative + qualitative scoring matrix.
Disclaimer: This ranking was made through available information to authors and is a ‘best endeavours’ attempt to critically evaluate and rank interior design schools in an unbiased and independent manner. Schools that have not made our top 10 list on aggregation of their metrics, may score higher than those on this list in specific variables.
Top 10 Interior Design Schools in the USA 2015
#1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah
SCAD ranks number one in the US for 2015. The school has its founding campus in the Savannah, Georgia, and further three interior design schools based in Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. SCAD counts 12,000 students from more than 100 countries among its students, 23% of whom are classed as international students (non-US resident). SCAD is known for the talent and dedication of its faculty and staff, its utilization of leading-edge technology and learning resources and the strength of its industry and alumni networks.
Total full-time student for one academic year: US $34,470
#2. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn NY
The Pratt Institute comes in at number 2 in our ranking of the best interior design schools in the united States. The Pratt Institute ‘PI’ was founded in 1887 and has remained a global leader in art, design and architecture higher education throughout its 128 year history. PI’s interior design school operates from its main Brooklyn campus (PI also has a Manhattan campus), from where it has maintained its reputation for both the creative flexibility and practical rigour of its program. PI has around 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students in total and in the subject of interior design offers both degree level and postgraduate studies.
The schools flagship undergraduate program leads to the award of the Bachelor of Fine Arts, B.F.A. in Interior Design following the completion of an eight semester degree program (4 yeas), and the program is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).
The Pratt Institute boasts impressive statistics on the destination of its graduates, 93% of whom found job placements following graduation in May 2014 and of those continuing into postgraduate study 100% were accepted into graduate programs. Pratt is a living lab of craft and creativity with an esteemed faculty of accomplished professionals and scholars who challenge their talented students to transform their passion into meaningful expression.
1–11 Undergraduate Credits: $1,438 per credit
12–18 Undergraduate Credits: $44,580 annually
19+ Undergraduate Credits: $44,580 plus $1438 per credit in excess of 18 credits
RISD is situated in Providence, Rhode Island, a city of around 180,000 which provides its own lively art scene and is conveniently located near the two major cultural centers of Boston and New York.
RISD offers a full four year Bachelors in Fine Arts, B.F.A. in Interior Architecture and 1 and 2 year post graduate programs.
RISD differentiates Interior Architecture from Interior Design as follows.
“At the intersection of architecture, conservation and design, Interior Architecture takes an innovative approach to the reuse and transformation of existing buildings. Advanced design studios focused on adaptive reuse are central to both the undergraduate and graduate programs. And unlike the fields of interior design and decoration, Interior Architecture looks less at the application of surface materials than at understanding the design of buildings from inside out.”
RISD provides its students with practical instruction through development of realistic projects and coursework, leading to skills and knowledge that is ready to be applied in the real world post graduation. The school is keen to foster the collaborative abilities and communication skills of its students enabling each individual to grow creatively and become socially and environmentally aware, key qualities for success in their professional careers.
Tuition Fees 2015-2016
Approx US $44,284
#4. New York School of Interior Design
NYSID is a specialist interior design school founded in 1916. The school’s focus on interior design has enabled it to provide some of the most in-depth and creative education available in the United States to its 600 undergraduate and graduate students.
The school is particularly adept at preparing students to enter professional careers in interior design, with the quality of the school’s graduates evident in the high proportion that gain employment following graduation. 92% of students from undergraduate programs gained employment within 6 months of completing their studies, and the rate for postgraduate programs was 94%.
The school has a strong alumni and professional network that students can draw on to enhance their career prospects. NYSID offers 1 year certificate programs, suitable for those without a portfolio wishing to establish one.
The 1 year Basic Interior Design Certificate – BID then optionally feeds into the second year of the 2 year Associate of Applied Science – AAS which includes core syllabus of practical residential and commercial interior design. Those having completed the AAS have the option to further enhance their interior design education by entering year 3 of the 4 year Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design – BFA, a CIDA accredited professional level degree. Examples of the standard of work produced by NYSID students:
NYSID student Zeina Barakat
NYSID student Zeina Barakat
NYSID student Benjamin Anderson
Approximate fees per academic year US $30,000
#5. Parsons The New School for Design
Parsons is a private art and design college, located in Greenwich Village. The school was first school to offer programs in interior design in the United States following its establishment in 1906. Parsons has consistently ranked as a leading program for interior design education with a research intensive approach to place making which prepares students for a competitive and dynamic professional life.
The New School wide networks in the design, commerce and industry and utilizes these to stay at the cutting edge of theory and practice. The school has a particular focus on collaborative work, providing students with the necessary communication skills and abilities to manage design projects that will serve them in their professional careers. Parsons has more than 25 undergraduate and graduate programs and is widely regarded as a significant art and design universities globally, with an equally impressive international standing in the area of fashion design.
The school offers students a 4 year Bachelors in Fine Arts in Interior Design which is structured with an initial year 1 consisting in fundamental coursework and theory of design. Subsequent years introduce higher level theory as well as introduce six semesters of studio design introducing students to interior design in practice at and architecture issues of increasing difficulty and detail. Students conceptualize designs and create them using means ranging from physical models to collage and digital renderings.
#6. University of Cincinnati – School of Architecture and Interior Design
The University of Cincinnati offers a 5 year Bachelor of Science in Interior Design program which involves 1.5 years of full time paid internships with students required to set learning objectives and complete small projects to enhance their internship experience. The Cincinnati program is noted for the quality of its dedicated studio spaces, and competency of its graduates.
The Cincinnati program balances comprehensive theory with studio work and cooperative education. The school seeks to help students to understand a building users requirements and the context of the space being designed. At each level knowledge and skills in problem discovery and solving are enhanced alongside creative and critical thinking, communication and collaborative skills and fluency and skill in the use of the latest technologies.
Approximate fees per academic year US $13,500
#7. Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York
FIT as it’s generally known is a State University of New York (SUNY) school of art, design, communications and technology with strong connections to the fashion industry. The main FIT campus is located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York on West 27th Street. The school was founded in 1944 and is ranked in the top 5 fashion schools in the world and has a strong reputation in design and technology. FIT boats an impressive alumni including Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, designer David Chu and in interior design a graduate of the school Carisa Perez-Fuentes was runner up in Bravo Televisions Top Design series.
FIT’s interior design program is the largest in New York and offers an Associate in Applied Science A.A.S. and a Bachelor of Fine Arts B.F.A. in Interior Design. Both qualifications requires students to obtain a mastery in design techniques, fluency in analogue and digital design technology and abilities in business, project management and communication and collaboration skills required for professional success. As part of the interior design program, students are expected to have a sound foundation in the liberal arts, in order to bring wider interpretation and critique to the practice.
The A.A.S. program is taught over 2 years in which time core topics are covered including design fundamentals, space planning, lighting color, materials, and furnishings. In the final semester of the A.A.S. students research a building and create a design for converting it into another use.
Students of the 2 year B.F.A. Interior Design program go into further depth and master the ability to apply advanced design concepts to complex spaces such as including public buildings, religious structures, and prime residential and commercial space. Students of the B.F.A undertake a project over 2 semesters which is presented to a jury of practicing interior design professionals.
FIT programs are accredited by CIDA and meet National Certification for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and New York State Certified Interior Designer requirements.
Associate-level, out-of-state residents $6750.00 per semester
Baccalaureate-level, out-of-state residents $9796.00 per semester
#8. Cornell University
The Department of Design + Environmental Analysis at the Cornell College of Human Ecology is the only Ivy League institution offering an interior design first professional degree program accredited by CIDA.
The program emphasises practical problem-solving through replication of real life projects in Cornell’s well equipped design studios, allowing students to develop their technical design skills and to enhance their creative and critical thinking when applied to designs that affect human environments. Teaching faculty members are recruited from private practice and are leaders in their field and deeply committed to passing on their skill and knowledge.
Scholarship Information Cornell
#9. Syracuse University
Syracuse University, often referred to ‘Cuse’ or ‘SU’ is located in Syracuse, New York. The school offers a full CIDA accredited Bachelor of Fine Arts – B.F.A. Environmental and Interior Design. The school believes in a multidisciplinary approach to the creation of humane, sustainable spaces. The development of technical skills is complemented by essential visualization and communications skills to enable designers to understand the goals of a project, imagine creative solutions and collaborate with others to transform vision into reality.
Like other top schools, the degree is studio focused with students interacting and sharing design laboratories and studios with other disciplines in the School of Design, the photo below is of facilities available to design school students.
Students at Syracuse also receive a broad liberal arts education in order to provide greater understanding of the concepts feeding into design, and are made aware of the business of design and how to integrate their education into the wider world once they become professional interior designers. In practice the school arranges work experiences and collaborative projects within the community and professional practice in order to expose students to the current realities and future trends in interior design.
Students have the option to spend a semester in their junior year at the Syracuse’s Design in London program.
#10. Drexel University
Indoor rock climbing wall – Drexel Recreation Building
Drexel offers both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in interior design.
The school’s Bachelor of Science degree is a four-year first professional degree which provides students with the option to take a minor in an alternative subject.
The school’s new minor Sustainability in the Built Environment is one example that is of relevance to the interior design major.
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