Interior designers are the visionaries behind indoor environments that aspire to be both aesthetically pleasing and highly functionary. These professionals must have creativity, visual sensibility, and imaginative prowess, but in order to achieve success in their trade designers should also possess business acumen and excellent communication skills. Their day-to-day responsibilities include ascertaining client needs and goals, and preparing bids. Additionally, interior designers must be competent with technical information such as measurements and dimensions, as well as computer software programs that aid in design.
The associate degree in interior design is an opportunity for students to achieve a general education while learning the specific trade. Some programs present the associate as an introduction to the interior design field that will prepare students for entry-level employment in the field. Other programs, like the one offered at Parsons, the New School for Design, favor candidates who already have college degrees and significant work experience.
Why an Associate Degree?
The associate is a two-year program that resembles the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s program. Students who enroll in interior design associate degree programs, just like bachelor’s students, will be required to take classes outside of their program of study. As they gain expertise in interior design, students will also build foundational knowledge in subjects like mathematics, literature, and/or history.
The degree also attracts students who are interested in earning a degree while avoiding school loan debt. Furthermore, the associate can be a positive move for students of any educational or professional background who want to explore interior design, but are unsure about the bachelor’s degree. The associate in interior design, moreover, gives students sufficient education to find entry-level employment.
In order to become a practicing interior designer, most states only give licensure to those who have met requirements for education and experience, and passed the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam. California licenses only those who have passed the California Council of Interior Design exam (IDEX).
Inside an Interior Design Associate Degree Program
Students need to fulfill an average of 64 credit hours, some of which must be taken outside the program. Interior design programs take roughly 18 months to complete, though some offer an intensive track that students complete in one year.
Drawing and graphic design are two important skills for interior designers to master, or at least learn the basics; paper and pencil artistry, as well as AutoCAD and other computer-aided design tools, play a significant role in this profession. Because AutoCAD is an industry standard, many associate programs require students to take several courses that focus solely on that program. In addition to introductory courses in AutoCAD, interior design curricula often include classes such as, ‘Drawing for Interiors,’ ‘Color Theory,’ ‘Interior Design: 1950 to Present,’ and, ‘Ecology and the Built Environment.’
Students will also need to take courses in other departments to meet the criteria for the associate degree. Examples include ‘Critical Reading and Writing,’ ‘Mathematics for Business and Finance,’ and ‘Sales and Marketing’. In addition to completing program course requirements, students earning their associate degree in interior design are often required to complete a capstone project before graduation.
What’s Next for Interior Design Associate Degree Holders?
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that a bachelor’s degree is often required to get a job as an interior designer. BLS also explains that many states prohibit use of the title ‘interior designer’ for individuals who have not passed the NCIDQ/IDEX exam. In order to take these exam, candidates need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in interior design and two years of experience in the field.
Graduates from the associate program may be able to find employment as sales representatives, or as assistants for interior designers, lighting designers, and project managers. Some will opt to enter similar fields such as floral design or fashion design. Additional schooling may be necessary for students who have not achieved the requirements necessary to become registered interior designers. For some, a bachelor’s in interior design or a related field like business administration or graphic design is a viable option.
Once students have achieved the requirements to enter the field as registered interior designers, they may find employment in architectural or interior design firms, or as freelancers who specialize in commercial or residential design. According to the BLS, the median salary for interior designers was $48,400 in 2014. The average growth rate for all occupations between the same 10-year timeframe is forecast at 7%, while the growth rate for interior designers is 4%.