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Today’s interior architects are licensed to build and act as the bridge between architects and interior designers: While architects are concerned with buildings and how they interact with their environment, interior architects focus more on how the buildings interact with the people living and working inside of them. Unlike interior designers, however, interior architects work with interior structure and surface, coordinating all of the elements that make up an interior space—from walls and windows to color, lighting, furnishings and textures—everything that makes up what they call a “total space.”

When thinking about the total space, interior architects have to consider the human experience, and the way people really operate at work, at home, at play, and in public life. They become experts in the safety, function and physiological aspects of spaces as well as psychological responses to color and texture and, depending on the project, individual aesthetic preferences.

The professional skills an interior architect needs influence the graduate program curriculum. In most graduate programs in Interior Architecture, students are invited to sample a cross-section of disciplines—including architecture, fashion, fiber, theatrical design, lighting design and furniture design. Drafting and model-building are now often done on computers—virtual space—so computer literacy is a big part of the courses. The thin-skinned should beware: Constant critiques from fellow students and instructors are also a big part of the learning process.

Degree Information

A Master of Interior Architecture (M.I.A.) can take from two to three years (unless the process is begun as an undergraduate, in which case some of those courses can be applied to a master’s degree) and will require a thesis or final project and comprehensive exams.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Where is the program located, and will it give me access to spaces which interest me?
  • How much of the course work is theoretical and how much practical? Which do I prefer?
  • With which other departments does the department of interior architecture cooperate?
  • Who are the faculty members and what projects have they worked on? Are there faculty doing work that I am interested in, and will they help me achieve my educational goals?
  • How accessible is the faculty, especially any big names?
  • Where are most of the students from? What are their backgrounds?
  • What about the alumni? Do they support the school once they've left? What types of jobs did they get?
  • What sort of assistantships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities are available?

Career Overview

As an interior architect, you could be the person who figures out how to liberate corporate drones from their cubicles. You could figure out how to make a children’s hospital less frightening for its patients. You could design the Smart Room—the room that interacts back! You could end up on Trading Spaces!

Whether you end up working in an architectural firm, in a design firm, for real-estate developers, or as a corporate consultant, a career as an interior architect will mean much more than just making interior environments beautiful. It will mean understanding the way a wall can affect relations between employees, and the difference a window in the wrong place can make. It will mean ensuring that buildings are accessible to people with physical disabilities. In short, it will mean understanding and manipulating the way that spaces make human lives more livable.

Career/Licensing Requirements

In the United States and Canada, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) is the accrediting body for professional degree programs in Interior Architecture. The Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) doesn't specify degrees required, but does require that everyone applying for the NCIDQ Exam has fulfilled one of the following requirements: 4–5 years of interior design education plus 2 years of full time work experience in interior design OR 3 years of interior design education plus 3 years of full time work experience in interior design OR 2 years of interior design education plus 4 years of full time work experience in interior design.

Salary Information

An interior architect with a freshly-minted degree can expect to earn somewhere between $30,000 and $38,000, though in large cities one can expect to make a little more. With more experience, many can earn in the $70,000 range, though the people working at the top of their field can often expect to earn a good deal more than that.

Related Links

Council for Interior Design Accreditation
The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research is the organization that sets the standard for Interior Design education. Their Website publishes a list of accredited programs.

Interior Design Educators Council, Inc.
The Interior Design Educators Council, Inc. provides information on conferences, members, job announcements and events in the field.

International Interior Design Association
The International Interior Design Association, a professional networking and educational association of more than 10,000 members around the world "committed to enhancing the quality of life through excellence in interior design and advancing interior design through knowledge."

Council for Interior Design Qualification
The Council for Interior Design Qualification administers the NCIDQ Exam, required by the majority of U.S. states and Canadian provinces to become licensed/certified/registered in interior design.


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  • History Of Design

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  • Perception And Communication

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