How does someone break into interior design? You may see people on some of your favorite home improvement shows doing it for a living and wonder how you can do the same. Whether you’re embarking on a new career or want to learn a new skill set, interior design can be a fulfilling way to put artistic talent and creativity to good use. And if interior design is something you want to pursue full-time, it’s not a career that requires paying for years and years of college tuition. Online training is an accessible way to learn everything you need to know about interior design, and many courses will prepare you for certification. Here are five of the best online interior design courses for would-be professionals and hobbyists alike.
- BEST OVERALL: The Interior Design Institute
- RUNNER-UP: New York Institute of Art and Design
- BEST STRUCTURED LEARNING: British College of Interior Design
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Udemy
- ALSO CONSIDER: MasterClass
What to Consider When Choosing One of the Best Online Interior Design Courses
When diving into the world of interior design, it’s crucial to understand that it involves more than what you might see on a home improvement show. Education provides the necessary skills to start an interior design career, and education from a reputable institute can help distinguish a burgeoning designer. Here are some key elements to keep in mind when picking the right online course.
An interior designer does more than choose paint colors and pick furniture. Unlike an interior decorator, a designer needs knowledge of building systems to create functional spaces. A designer might decorate, but a decorator will not design.
Many states require people to hold an interior design certification to become a working interior designer, and most accredited institutions offer a certificate or diploma as proof that a student met specific education standards critical to interior design. Even if a state does not require certification, it can still help to enhance a resume and get a foot in the door when starting a career.
After completing education, many aspiring interior designers will go on to take the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) exam. There are three sections to the exam: the Fundamentals Exam (IDFX), the Professional Exam (IDPX), and the Practicum Exam (PRAC). A candidate must pass each section successfully to acquire the certification. Upon successfully obtaining certification, an interior designer will be able to exhibit the following core competencies:
- Building systems
- Construction standards
- Contract administration
- Design application
- Professional practice
- Project coordination
Aside from the certification a school provides, knowing how much the course costs is also an important consideration. While someone will want to choose a course that fits their budget and needs, it’s imperative to know what a student will receive for the price. Someone studying interior design as a hobby might not need a course that involves graded assignments or certification. On the flip side, someone looking to pursue interior design as a career won’t opt for the cheapest choice, as it might not provide the skills necessary to earn an interior design certificate.
Course length may play a significant role in the decision-making process when pursuing an interior design course. Self-study courses allow a student to move at their own pace. A student may be allowed up to a year to complete the course, but highly motivated students with fewer work or home commitments could complete the course within a few weeks. Instructor-led courses typically have set start and end dates, making planning simpler. When choosing a course, a student should determine their goals and how long they’re willing and able to commit to studying.
Accreditation is a voluntary third-party process for any educational institution, and it typically denotes higher program quality. It also means that the program’s quality is continually evolving and improving because the accreditation process identifies risks and shortcomings that the institution can address. Some accreditations are more rigorous than others, but generally, any accreditation is better than none. Remember that accreditation is not as important for interior design programs that aren’t geared toward professional development; courses designed for independent learning for those who aren’t pursuing a career typically won’t be accredited.
Three common accreditations for online interior design courses are IARC (International Accreditation and Recognition Council), BAC (British Accreditation Council), and DEAC (Distance Education Accrediting Commission). Institutions can also be accredited by a state-run educational board within the state where they’re located.
Another factor to consider when searching for an ideal interior design school is whether the school offers a money-back guarantee. Some schools may offer a refund within a week, while others may allow 30 days. Also, keep in mind that some money-back guarantees may be a full refund while others may be partial refunds. Whatever the timeline or rules associated with the money-back guarantee, it is critical that the student read the guidelines before committing to the course. Schools that offer a money-back guarantee typically want to guarantee a student’s satisfaction, so the quality of education may be better than those that don’t provide such options.
Curriculum and Continuing Education
Before starting a course, students should look at the course outline and syllabus to determine if they need any particular tools. Some courses might recommend interior design books or specific software, but many will simply require that you have internet access.
Becoming a professional in interior design involves staying up to date with the latest trends, technology, and best practices. In addition to providing introductory-level coursework, programs may offer options for continuing education. These additional tools may be in the form of videos or instructional materials.
Learning Style and Course Requirements
What is the best way to work within an online environment? This is a question every student will have to ponder. Not all online courses are designed the same, and not every style will suit every student. For instance, some courses may offer live classes. Live classes may allow students to interact with the instructor and other students for an immersive, engaging experience. Still, weekly sessions might not work if a student has an unpredictable schedule. Self-study classes with prerecorded videos might be more suitable for students who prefer to move at their own pace, but it might not be the right choice for students who need a lot of accountability. In general, all accredited courses will require some level of independent reading, homework assignments, and quizzes.
Our Top Picks
Learning about interior design can take many forms, and there are plenty of choices for online courses. Here are the best options.
Why It Made the Cut: Since 2006, The Interior Design Institute has been providing home study courses throughout the United States and several other countries, helping to build and expand interior design careers in a short amount of time.
The Interior Design Institute offers flexible self-study coursework that allows students to start at any time and complete the modules at their own pace. A student can expect to complete the course in 24 weeks on average. However, this can be extended up to a year if the student moves slower due to personal responsibilities.
The course has 12 modules and 12 assignments, and a personal tutor helps with and grades the coursework. Advanced modules home in on specific areas like home staging or business branding. Students also receive access to an exclusive Facebook group to interact with current and former students. Students have various options to pay for the class, including weekly, monthly, or full payment plans.
All coursework is provided digitally and focuses on helping students acquire critical design skills. While the base course doesn’t include much information to help develop students’ business skills, students can purchase advanced business modules that do. Overall, The Interior Design Institute provides a comprehensive education that prepares students for certification.
- Certification: Yes
- Price: Starting at $999
- Average course length: 6 months
- Accreditation: IARC, BAC
- Money-back guarantee: 7 days
- Personal tutor assists with and grades assignments
- Access to exclusive student Facebook group
- Advanced modules for students to focus on areas of interest
- Weekly, monthly, or full payment plans available
- Curriculum does not focus as much on business skills
Why It Made the Cut: The New York Institute of Art and Design has provided high-quality interior design training for over two decades and fast-tracks students to certification.
The New York Institute of Art and Design has grown to become one of the nation’s leading training centers for those pursuing interior design, wedding planning, jewelry design, personal style, and more. Students looking to take more than one course offered at NYIAD can even earn a 25 percent discount. The institute is accredited by the New York State Education Department and DEAC (Distance Education Accrediting Commission). It is the only course on this list that is preapproved for the Residential Interior Design Qualification Certification (RIDQC) exam. While this exam may not be required for every state, it’s an extra qualification that will bolster a professional’s resume.
The interior design track is structured as a self-study course, and the school reports an average of 8 to 12 months to complete it (but students have up to 18 months to complete the course if needed). Despite student reports that instructors are not as responsive as they expected them to be, there is much help from mentors and the curriculum is straightforward. The New York Institute of Art and Design is geared toward student success and is a great choice for a would-be interior designer.
- Certification: Yes
- Price: Starting at $849
- Average course length: 8 to 12 months
- Accreditation: New York State Education Department, DEAC
- Money-back guarantee: 14 days
- Students can apply for RIDQC certification after the course
- Students receive up to 18 months to finish the course
- 25 percent off discount if students enroll in multiple NYIAD courses
- Reported delayed instructor responsiveness
Why It Made the Cut: The British College of Interior Design teaches aspiring interior designers with a structured learning style that’s ideal for students seeking a more traditional experience.
Equipped with directors and principals with over 30 years of experience in distance learning, the British College of Interior Design has become an international leader educating tomorrow’s interior designers. Tutors and experts in the field will work with students to develop their passion and help them discover the areas of design best suited for their professional goals. Program instructors and mentors also guarantee to continue to work with students after graduation to provide professional guidance. Training includes coursework that enhances design skills, and the course contains extra modules on business practices and strategies that effectively prepare students to embark on a professional path, especially if they want to start their own business.
Students will follow an outlined syllabus week by week, and they have the option of choosing between a 12- or 24-week course depending on their availability. This is ideal for students who struggle to keep themselves on task and for whom self-study courses may not be appropriate. This structured style also means that if students miss the set enrollment date, they will have to wait for the next opening because the school only offers fixed course start dates. However, if a student prefers a more conventional learning style in an online format, the British College of Interior Design is a standout choice.
- Certification: Yes
- Price: Starting at $590
- Average course length: 12 or 24 weeks
- Accreditation: IARC
- Money-back guarantee: 7 days
- Choice between 12-week and 24-week course
- Course curriculum is more business oriented than that of the typical course
- Students are guaranteed access to professional guidance after graduation
Why It Made the Cut: For students seeking knowledge about interior design and the industry, Udemy provides courses at an affordable price.
Udemy is a global marketplace for various educational programs, including interior design. Students can log in from anywhere in the world and access quality education from real instructors. Course prices start as low as $13.99 and go up to over $100 depending on the complexity of the material and level of learning. While Udemy Personal subscriptions are not eligible for a money-back guarantee, and students won’t receive feedback from instructors, this model is best-suited to students seeking introductory knowledge or specific guidance on one facet of design, like color theory or software.
Before choosing a course, students can read reviews directly on the course’s webpage, so it’s easy to gauge which classes are suitable. Courses can be purchased individually, or students can subscribe to Udemy Pro for one monthly fee and access multiple classes. Udemy is an excellent choice for its value and breadth of information.
- Certification: No
- Price: Starting at $13.99
- Average course length: 6 hours
- Accreditation: No
- Money-back guarantee: 30 days
- Students can tailor learning to their needs and interests
- Udemy Personal subscription provides access to all courses at no additional cost
- Reviews and ratings for each course are displayed on the course page
- Lack of consistency in class quality
- Money-back guarantee not included with Udemy Personal subscription
- No guidance or feedback from tutors or instructors
Why It Made the Cut: MasterClass provides digestible interior design courses delivered online by experts in the field.
MasterClass provides access to courses from renowned interior designers Kelly Wearstler and Corey Damen Jenkins. The professionally-produced videos range from 5 to 15 minutes, making the material easy to consume and understand. The course can be completed within 2 to 5 hours. Students will need to subscribe to an annual membership for $180 and won’t receive feedback from a tutor or instructor, but membership allows students to access all other courses on the platform. MasterClass is an excellent option for those looking for introductory basics or to implement design lessons in their day-to-day lives.
- Certification: No
- Price: $180 per year
- Average course length: 2 to 5 hours
- Accreditation: No
- Money-back guarantee: 30 days
- Access to all site’s content for one annual price
- Classes taught by renowned professionals
- Content is taught in short, digestible videos
- Annual membership is required to access material
- No guidance or feedback from tutors or instructors
After much consideration, we determined that the best overall on our list of interior design schools online is The Interior Design Institute. This course is self-guided with one-on-one tutoring, advanced modules, and flexible payment options. New York Institute of Art and Design is the runner-up because it is the only course on our list approved for RIDQC (Residential Interior Design Qualification Certification).
How We Chose the Best Online Interior Design Courses
After reviewing dozens of the best paid and free interior design courses online, we decided on the five included in this guide. Our top three choices are accredited, take several months to complete, and prepare students for certification. Despite the expense, they can lead to higher earnings because of the quality of education in the curriculum and the certification exam preparation. Udemy and MasterClass are superior lower-priced options for those who want to learn interior design for personal use or brush up on old skills. While these classes are not accredited, their quality earned them spots in our roundup.
Before You Choose One of the Best Online Interior Design Courses
Although this list includes the best online interior design courses, each student will still need to determine what works best for their individual needs. This might start with state certification requirements. Or a student might want to schedule exploratory interviews with professionals in the field and gauge what level of certification or education professionals think is necessary to have a competitive edge.
A student will want to be sure they’re pursuing the correct path. While the interior designer job title is sometimes used as a catchall, students should make sure they’re clear on the different responsibilities of a decorator, designer, or home stager. While an interior design course can help with all three of these careers, students should be clear on their goals before shelling out a decent amount of money on a course.
Students should also make sure that online courses are the right choice. While online courses are growing in popularity because of their accessibility and price, some students may find that an in-person course is more effective for their learning needs.
Cost of Taking One of the Best Online Interior Design Courses
Ultimately, the cost of an interior design course online will depend on the route selected. Coursework that doesn’t provide certification upon completion can cost less than $200. These types of courses only take a few hours to complete. Coursework that allows a student to become certified after completing the course can cost between $500 and $1,000. These courses are usually accredited and can be completed within a few months. If a student chooses to get an online degree from a college or university, they can expect to pay between $56,000 and $116,000. A student can complete an online degree for interior design in the same time frame as a traditional degree, which is typically 2 to 4 years, depending on the program.
The Advantages of Using One of the Best Online Interior Design Courses
Not everyone has the time to attend classes in a traditional setting, which is why online courses can be so beneficial for people who want to learn a new skill but need more flexibility. And unlike conventional 2- or 4-year programs, online interior designer certification costs significantly less money while still providing the necessary skills to break into the industry. Other benefits include:
- No commuting, which saves time and money
- Working at one’s own pace (if taking a self-study course)
- Choosing one’s level of peer and instructor interaction
Taking online interior design classes can be a significant investment of time and money, so it’s beneficial to learn as much as possible before committing to one. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about taking interior design courses.
Q. Are there any prerequisites for interior design courses?
There are no prerequisites for an introductory-level interior design course.
Q. How long does an online interior design course take?
An online interior design course can take anywhere from a couple of hours to up to a year to complete depending on the school attended and level of certification pursued.
Q. What software will I use in my online interior design course?
While every online interior design course is different, AutoCAD is one of the most popular types of software. SketchUp is another popular option, and it’s often used for kitchen design.
Q. Can I work as an interior designer after completing my online interior design course?
To start working as an interior designer, someone would have to complete the coursework and pass the certification required by the state (if any). It may also help to get a mentor and put together a professional portfolio.
Q. Will online interior design courses teach me how to organize a space?
Online interior design courses teach students to work with space and plan a layout, but they do not teach organizing methods or skills. Students will have to seek out additional classes to learn about home organization.
Q. How do I pay for my online interior design course?
This varies by course, but most allow you to pay the total amount up front or make regular payments.
Q. What is the average salary for an interior designer?
An average salary for an interior designer in the U.S. is about $50,000 a year. This can vary depending on location and levels of certification.