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M.F.A. vs. M.A. in Interior Design

by Maria Magher, studioD

Interior designers don't just makeover homes to be more stylish and functional. They also design corporate buildings, government offices and even restaurants and shops. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that interior designers only need a bachelor's degree to get started in the field. However, those who want to advance in their field or teach at the college level typically need a graduate degree. Interior designers can choose between a Master of Arts or a Master of Fine Arts degree depending on their career and educational goals.

Program Admissions

Since the M.F.A. is considered a professional degree, most M.F.A. programs require students to have at least a bachelor's degree in interior design or some professional experience. However, most M.A. programs admit students who have a degree in any field. In some cases, students who do not have a bachelor's degree in interior design may need to complete additional coursework at the graduate level to complete their M.A. program.


The curriculum for an M.A. and M.F.A. program is similar, but M.F.A. programs typically include more advanced studies. Coursework in an M.A. program may include training in computer-aided design, or CAD, lighting principles, principles and theory of interior design and construction and detailing. Most M.F.A. programs include the same coursework in addition to classes in architecture, building systems, furniture design and specific styles of interior design, such as historical styles or designs for a kitchen. In general, an M.F.A. program provides a more comprehensive education in design.

Time to Degree

The time to complete a graduate degree in interior design varies from one to three years, depending on the school and the type of degree. In general, most M.A. programs take two years to finish, though some accelerated programs are available. Most M.F.A. programs last three years to accommodate the advanced studies that are required of the degree. Both degrees typically require the completion of a thesis project, which could lengthen the time to degree depending on the pace of individual student research.

Career Prospects

An M.A. in interior design can help interior designers advance their careers by taking on a management role or starting their own business. It can also be a stepping stone to more advanced studies. An M.F.A. in interior design is considered a terminal degree, meaning that students are qualified to teach at the university level without any further training. Those who aren't interested in teaching may wish to pursue an M.F.A. to make themselves more appealing for the same jobs that would be available to M.A. holders, in particular management roles or creative directors.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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