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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Interior Design

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Interior Design

Value

The best online master’s degree in interior design for value is the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Ranked among the top 50 public schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report, UNL has a reputation for strong academics, accomplished faculty, and affordable programs. According to statistics published by Payscale.com as part of their 2012 Return on Investment Rankings, in-state graduates can expect an average ROI of 8.4% with financial aid taken into consideration. Despite a higher cost of attendance, out-of-state graduates can still expect a strong ROI of 6.4%. For this reason, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln was selected as the top school in this category.

Flexibility

Ball State University was chosen as the best online master’s degree in interior design for flexibility. This public four-year institution based in Muncie, Ind., has expanded their distance education offerings in recent years, rising as a leader in online education. Students with a bachelor’s degree in interior design, architecture, or a related field will be able to complete all of their course work online. In addition, these students may qualify for the fast track degree, which requires only 33 credit hours and can typically be completed in two years of full-time study. Those with little or no background in design are still eligible to enroll, but will have additional requirements to meet.

Financial Support

Savannah College of Art and Design was awarded the title of best online master’s degree in interior design for financial support. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 95% of incoming students for the 2010-2011 school year received some form of financial assistance. In addition, 92% of students were awarded some grant and/or scholarship funding as part of their aid package. Approximately 58% of students also benefitted from federal student loan programs. In 2009, the loan default rate remained low at 3.4%, demonstrating manageable levels of debt for the majority of SCAD graduates.

Technology Support

Ball State University was chosen as the top online master’s degree in interior design for technology support. The online classroom is accessible to students at any time of the day and technical support staff members are also available 24/7 to help with problems that may occur. Additionally, the school’s online programs offer students access to the virtual learning platform from mobile devices and tablet computers. Live streaming video and audio, online labs and bulletin boards, and an expertly designed platform are just some of the technical aspects that place Ball State at the top of our list for this category.

Student Engagement

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln ranked at the top of our list as the best online master’s degree in interior design for student engagement. Number 46 on U.S. News & World Report‘s list of the top public schools in the country, UNL is dedicated to providing well-rounded degree programs that prepare students for careers in their field. Individuals enrolled in the online program will be taught by the same faculty members as their on-campus counterparts. In addition, the highly interactive virtual classroom provides students the opportunity to collaborate with their peers via chat, discussion boards, email, or even video chat. Students able to travel to campus are also welcome to attend study sessions, club and organization meetings, and school-sponsored lectures.

Faculty Credentials

The award for the best online master’s degree in interior design for faculty credentials was given to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. This large public university owes much of its strong academic reputation to an accomplished group of faculty members. The same instructors who teach on-campus courses have received extensive training to help them foster academic growth among students in the online environment as well. Small class sizes at the graduate level ensure that students receive the personal attention and guidance they need to develop into successful professionals. For this reason, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln was chosen as the best school for faculty credentials.

Alumni Engagement

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln also earned recognition as the best online master’s degree in interior design for alumni engagement. Graduates of UNL join a large a diverse group of alumni. Benefits of membership with the Alumni Association include access to sporting events, library resources, travel and insurance discounts, networking and career services, and other school-sponsored programs and events. Affiliate groups and local chapters are located across the country as well, giving students the opportunity to stay connected despite their location. With all this considered, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln was awarded the top spot in this category.

Prior Learning Options

The best online master’s degree in interior design for prior learning options is the Academy of Art University. Graduate level students can transfer up to six credits earned at another accredited institution. Please note, however, these credits must be relevant to the student’s coursework and independent final project in order to be approved for transfer. The student’s academic advisor can guide them through this portfolio review process during their first semester of study.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Interior Design

Interior design incorporates the conceptual development, planning, and execution of projects which transform the interior space of both commercial and residential buildings. Interior designers must possess a mixture of artistic instincts and technical skills. Online master’s degrees in interior design will seek to develop these creative instincts while providing a foundation in the basic architectural and engineering concepts necessary to oversee the design and construction of projects. Graduates of a program like this may seek employment as part of a design firm or opt to start their own design company. Some designers may specialize in commercial or residential projects, though many will work on both.

An online program allows students the flexibility to continue working at their current jobs while taking classes either full or part time. Each school has different graduation requirements. Therefore, the average time to complete this type of program is between one to three years. It is important to keep in mind though, applicable transfer credits brought in, the number of courses a student takes each term, and whether or not the student remains continuously enrolled in the program can all influence the time to completion.

Class Curriculum

Interior design students can expect a mixture of lecture, seminar, and studio courses. Foundational courses will include concepts in design theory and architecture. Following this theoretical instruction, students will be required to demonstrate practical applications in studio workshop and internship courses. Some specific examples of courses that may be included in this type of program include:

  • History of Interiors. This type of course will explore the historical development and importance of interiors, furnishings, and architecture from antiquity through modern times. This will typically be set up as a lecture course.
  • Construction Systems. Students enrolled in this class will learn general construction terminology, techniques, and sustainability concepts. Topics such as building systems of structure, plumbing, and mechanical and fire safety will also be discussed.
  • Graduate Studio. Studio classes provide students the opportunity to explore the practical applications of what they have learned. This includes the development, planning, and construction of large scale design projects.

Students can expect homework to include readings, model building, the creation of design plans, research projects, and presentations. Students will also be expected to demonstrate their skills in practical applications and executing their models and plans in studio workshops throughout the program. Depending on the school’s specific curriculum, an internship and/or capstone project may be required for graduation. Given the hands-on nature of this type of curriculum, most programs in interior design will require at least some on-campus component.

Building a Career

Graduates of a master’s degree program in interior design are equipped with the artistic and technical ability to develop, plan, and implement a variety of projects in commercial and residential spaces. Depending on an individual’s undergraduate study and work background, several years of experience may be necessary before a designer can become fully licensed. This may mean graduates must work as design assistants or administrative staff for a design firm before they can practice on their own.

The job outlook for interior designers is favorable, with 19% growth expected over the period of 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is slightly better than the average of 14% growth expected for all occupations. In 2010, the median annual salary for interior designers was $46,280. The specialized design services industry employs the highest number of designers, followed by architectural, engineering, and related services. Designers working in architectural, engineering, and related services earned the highest salaries at a median of $51,990. However, please note, actual openings and starting salaries vary based on location, level of education, experience, the type of company, and general job market.

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