Interior Design or Interior Architecture?


Hello everyone, 

I am a high school student and I have some sense of what I want to study in college. I have come down to Interior Design or Interior Architecture. I know that Interior Architecture is somewhat of a combination of Interior Design and Architecture, except they work on the inside of the building rather than exterior. 

I like the sound of getting to re-do the entire interior of the house/building so I want to get into Interior Architecture but after searching for colleges that have Interior Architecture as a major, I couldn't find a lot. I guess I did find some but I don't really like the schools. 

So I was wondering if I would be able to major in interior design and get a M from Architecture and maybe be an Interior Architect that way? Or would that take too much time?

I've heard that many interior designers end up going back to school to get degrees for architecture as well so I'm in debate. I'm not really into the whole exterior of a building thing...

Please help me! Thank you!

Nov 8, 12 4:24 pm

My new co-worker got her interior design degree and then later an M.arch and she is a better architect than I will ever be - why? I believe designing from the inside out creates a better design - and no it does not take any more time + with all the TI(tenant improvement work) the dual degree, Interiors then architecture is a better mix - You don't want to be just a lo paid "grunt" like me - I have no future in my office - none

Nov 8, 12 5:04 pm

It is possible to get a m. Arch after a degree in interior design??? So you could always go back to school to do architecture after graduating with interior design and becoming a full architect?


Interior Design v. Interior Architecture is mostly semantics. People often think Interior Design = Decorator (which isn't true) so they throw the word architecture in there to make it sound more legit.


That said I would highly recommend pursuing Interior Design/Architecture as opposed to traditional architecture. I would argue that you will probably do more "architecture" as an interior designer than most architects would.

Nov 9, 12 1:08 am

I've heard this from many people that interior arch/design is fr more lucrative than straight architecture. Why is that? Aren't "interior architects" not licensed?

Nov 13, 12 11:20 am


Nov 14, 12 12:09 pm

In the office I work, the Interior designer makes way more than I do - 

Nov 14, 12 12:30 pm
future hope

I agree (with August) that interior design and interior architecture are basically the same thing.  I would go with the best program rather than excluding the "interior design" options.

Nov 14, 12 12:43 pm


Perhaps Interior Design/Architecture is more fun because designers are spending more time working on actual projects rather than chasing silly licenses :)

Nov 14, 12 9:41 pm

When pursuing Interior Architecture, do  the masters programs teach the same basic design courses? Or is it an entirely different approach and set of classes? 

Also, I was warned that pursuing a masters in architecture while working full time would be next to impossible but a lot of the ID/IA programs I have found and night part time options. So it is making me wonder if ID/IA is a bit of a different course than straight architecture. 

Nov 15, 12 1:40 am
Sergo Antadze

there is  a masters degree program in Interior architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, and this program is specifically designed for working professionals, all classes are evening classes.

Nov 15, 12 2:24 am

interior architecture and interior design are more or less the same thing...interior decorator is a different story

Nov 15, 12 11:56 pm
Sergo Antadze

"interior architecture and interior design are more or less the same thing...interior decorator is a different story"


sad part is many architects do not understand that concept either. and we expect clients to differentiate between interior designers and interior decorators.

Nov 16, 12 1:09 am

About the Cal Poly program, is it basically a design oriented program along the same lines as a regular M.Arch? 

I am trying to figure out what the difference is? I mean I was told by my advisers that arch school required a lot of attention and that they're all full time. I mean it was told to me that it would be like going to med school and that it would be tough even with a part time job? 

So that is why I am wondering why there would be a part time program for interiors? I am wondering if it's less design oriented? Less rigorous? 

Nov 16, 12 1:18 am
boy in a well

this is actually very informative.



Nov 16, 12 8:34 am

Yes this topic discussion is very informative. Keep it going guys!

Nov 16, 12 11:49 pm

Hello everybody,
Can you explain please,what exactly is  the differences between interrior design and sustainable design.The specialist who redesign the functions(the restaurant instead of  an old factory)is  an interrior designer or sustainable.

Oct 9, 13 10:13 pm
Non Sequitur

interior architecture = interior design not able to stand by their own and borrowing credibility from a tangential profession. It's a nonsense term and like software architect or mortgage architect or sandwich architect (probably, why not? it's trendy).

int-des spend more time complaining that architects don't understand what they do (most do, you're all too self-centred to believe it) than work. There is a reason why our architectural licenses take so long to acquire.

Oct 10, 13 8:43 am

I was dead set on going to school for architecture but then I explored the idea of interior architecture. The problem is, all the research I've done on interior architecture says that it's a profession that is still building I guess. If I did exactly what an interior architect was supposed to do then I would love it; however, it seems like interior architects very rarely do what they went to school for and get stuck in a firm doing interior design. Is there anyone out there who can has thoughts on this? Is my generalization more or less correct that interior architects end up being hired for interior design?

Oct 15, 13 12:13 am
Non Sequitur


interior architecture is interior design but with a pathetic marketing attempt to borrow credibility from the architecture world. Many professions are jumping on this line of marketing and it means nothing.

Oct 15, 13 9:15 am

Interior Design is also part of architecture, architecture exists in a multitude of scales. An interior design / architecture is a great education, however you NEED to pair it with the graduate M.arch so you can get your license or do a B.arch the a masters in Interiors, once you get out into the workplace a lot of the design you will do is on the interior scale, however you do not want to just be an interior designer yo will spend your days sourcing FFE and furniture, You want to be an architect that can work at the interior scale or adaptive re-use.

Oct 15, 13 9:49 am

By your own opinion, do you think that one should get Bachelor in Interior Design and then a Masters in Architecture??


Why are interior designers making more and why is there more work in interiors? 

Jan 31, 14 2:51 pm
Non Sequitur

manoverde84, I doubt that int-des people make more than licensed architects. For example, in my market you'll be lucky to snag a 40K/year job as a int-des where M.Arch graduates can expect anywhere between 40 to 45K/year as a start with another 15K or more with a license. Face it, most int-des schools do not teach enough skills that bring in higher salaries. If only they would promote their own skills instead or trying to one-up architects there would be much less confusion.

It's enough I can't use the word "design" in my office without getting an earfull from the int-des crew about how they don't teach design in arch-schools. Now I have to endure their bastardization of my title just for their own marketing with "interior-architect". It's enough to make me throw-up a kidney.

Jan 31, 14 3:08 pm

I understand. I don't blame you for being upset but is the profession in the same vein as planning/urban design, industrial and this new sustainable design stuff, where its a subset of arch design? Is that where they're piggybacking on the profession? 

Feb 1, 14 4:05 pm

manoverde84, this is merely conjecture, but perhaps there is more work for interiors because there are more interiors to work with? A lot of interior architecture is refurbishing/reappropriating existing structures for a different program, with the most cliche example being the warehouse to condominium conversions. Also, many architectural projects do not see the light of day for multiple reasons whereas property owners will always need designers to help redesign an old interior.

Feb 4, 14 8:46 pm

Now that makes sense. I was wondering why so many IDers were telling me that they get more work or whatever than architects. I also hear that from architects themselves. 

On another note is there even a major difference then in a masters in ID and a masters in interior architecture? I'm looking at the curriculum for both programs and they both seem quite similar. There has to be something that distinguishes an ID from an IA? It cannot soley be a rebranding thing? 

Feb 5, 14 10:33 pm

Who designs the really cool massive interiors in huge buildings? I pictured an interior designer or interior architect to design the inside of a cool Art Deco or Futurist style buildings, factories and public buildings. 

Most of the stuff I see online though about ID just seems just so...fru fru. Almost like fashion design or something. 

Please tell tell me in utterly mistaken 

Feb 8, 14 1:45 pm


Feb 8, 14 11:45 pm

Manoverde84 - Generally the firms that design those buildings will have an in-house interior design department.  Usually the people in those departments have an Interior Design degree.  

My two cents on the whole discussion:

I have a BS in Interior Design, and did a lot of research on programs before choosing the Art Institute.  If you want to get an Interior Design degree, but work at an architecture firm, I think what matters most is choosing a program that is VERY technical.  I worked at an architecture firm while I was in school as a draftsperson, because my program was so CAD heavy, I was able to jump in with architects and keep up.  

My mother is an architect, and originally encouraged me to go for an Architecture degree, but now she is happy that I went with Interior Design.  We have a firm together, and typically look to hire designers with an ID degree rather than an M.Arch.  In our experience, designers who have only gone through an architecture program tend to be more conceptual thinkers, which is harder to apply to real-life.  

I'm generalizing a bit of course.  

I call myself an interior designer, but I get called a decorator all the time.  If you don't have an ego about it, who cares?  I know I'm not a decorator, my clients know what I am capable of, that is all that matters.

Mar 3, 14 12:58 pm

Thank you for the advice. I knew I had to be mistaken. The program at Santa Monica college seems like a great intro to ID. I will check it out. After a year and a half I'll plan to transfer to a BA or an MA (I already have a non design BA). 


So you recommend learning as much CAD as I can? There are two programs within the SMC ID program, one is set design which I'm not interested in and the other is CAD production and design which offer all the really advanced CAD courses. Would you recommend that? 

Last how is the market in ID? Is it as bad as architecture? I hear that ID is fairing better? 

Mar 11, 14 4:38 pm

Hey Everyone,

I'm currently rounding up my BSc Architecture in a school in Nigeria. I am caught in between furthering in Interior Architecture or Architecture. I find "Interior design" very interesting and stimulating and i see myself doing it long term. But based on my Bachelors Degree, completing Architecture (though uninteresting) will earn me a licence.

In my country, The Architect most times assume the work of the Interior Architect and Landscape Architect, giving him an edge over the Interior Architect And also in order to get a licence, you would need to complete The full  Architectural Program

Based on field experience,Is it wise to complete the Architectural process and then come back for a Masters degree in Interior Architecture or just Master in Interior Architecture and completely risk working in my country?

Aug 12, 14 7:10 pm
You can design interior architecture with a normal bachelor or masters, why would you get a separate degree or go for just interior? That's pointless. Just get a masters or bachelors in architecture.
Aug 12, 14 8:07 pm

More likely they're a recent graduate who hasn't begun the licensure process yet so hasn't become immersed in the distinctions, as many interiors programs are calling themselves 'Interior Architecture', and are not actually accredited architecture programs at all. It definitely confuses licensure discussions for sure, and I wish they wouldn't do it, but I get the reasoning behind it.

Dec 12, 15 2:15 am

can someone help with an interior design student brief i have

Dec 30, 15 11:52 am
Non Sequitur
^how hard is it to pick colours?
Dec 30, 15 3:08 pm

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers an M.Arch in Interior Architecture, as well as an M.Arch in normal architecture. Application deadline is in 15 days :p

Dec 31, 15 7:39 am
Non Sequitur

You don't need a degree to pick paint colours.

Jan 22, 16 2:11 pm
  • This must be late, but I need to be choosing my subjects for the final exams in year 11 and I wanna do interior architecture, and Im just wandering what subjects you chose. Thats all 
Mar 22, 16 3:58 pm

Hi Anaujj and all.. Hope my opinion not late. Interior architecture and interior designer are somewhat same thing. Like most of the opinion I read here, interior architecture is the only phrase that is used to define someone working in interior designing field but could do few architectural work.

In my experience, interior design subject is very specific. So Anaujj, ask yourself. You like specific thing or you like to learn so many thing at the same time. Because architecture contains of so many subject. The outcome you can be an architect itself or an interior designer or an urban planner. In professional life, if later you want to be an interior designer, by having architecture as background, you can do it . The different thing is when you study interior designing, you will not learn much more about designing building or larger scale of space.

So, why dont u check the syllabus of interior designing and architecture so that you can compare and find out what you really looking for.

Jun 3, 16 5:01 am

In the UK and other places interior architects do everything architects do except that they start with an existing structure. It can range from minor partition rearrangement to gut rehabs to additions and extensions. Interior in this sense is analogous to pre-existing. Conceptually, interior architects' main concern is the (re)construction of interior space. Interior designers generally do not get involved in any structural reconfigurations and are concerned primarily with the interior atmosphere, as noted by Greta Tyson. There is, of course, great debate over the definitions and some interior designers would argue they do what interior architects do. It may be true in practice and/or for some individuals, but as taught the distinctions are becoming clearer. Interior architecture programs included a good deal of technology in their curriculum. Some schools distinguish interior architecture from architecture by the mere condition that it is for designers who aren't planning on professional prescription by RIBA. It allows their programs greater freedom and scope because they do not have to structure their program according to RIBA criteria. It is an emerging field, with perhaps unclear boundaries, but a distinct centre.
hope that answers the question


Jun 10, 16 11:53 pm

Hey guys, I'm currently studying interior architecture and design in Dubai. Just wondering if i should do masters in interior design or interior architecture (even though they're pretty much the same). Also, if someone could suggest a really good university for my masters anywhere in the world i'd be thankful.

Jul 21, 16 7:33 am
Non Sequitur

skip the interior diploma and apply for masters in architecture.

Jul 21, 16 8:20 am

Archeticture or interior architecture ? What's better for the future , and what's the difference between them ? 

Jul 25, 16 5:55 am

I really don't know what to choose and I heard slit that architects are suffering for finding a job while interior architecture/ designers is wanted more .. Is that true ? 

Jul 25, 16 5:56 am
Non Sequitur
No it's not true. Do you want a career working on building design or a job picking fabric colours and sorting workers in cubicles?
Jul 25, 16 6:47 am
Neeraj Sharma

Be a designer first than take a decision about how you want to take the thing. There are many different way to reach somewhere as a designer you have to choose between two approaches whether you want to go inside from outside and reverse to plan Interior first and the Architect based on the requirement of your planned design.

When you go for first you need to adjust according to available size and space and it required lots of contractual alteration to achieve the desired result. But in second case the result and requirement are already in your mind to accommodate in more simpler way.

So do not get confuse think the way you are best and go for it  with any degree, diploma or course but have proper knowledge of both filed as it compliment each other and equally important in our profession. 

Nov 19, 16 12:19 am

I didn't look at what other people were saying but I do know that Parsons School of Design's Interior Design program is actually an Interior Architecture program. I am currently a student at Parsons in the Architectural Design program.

Nov 19, 16 10:41 am
Non Sequitur

^int arch is not a thing, it's just int-des rebranded to sound more professional.

Nov 19, 16 12:00 pm
Non Sequitur

^ no it's not.

Stop trying to raise inferior decorators

Nov 23, 16 8:02 am

Dude, quit grinding your axe. Interiors is a sub-field that the profession of architecture decided was one of those things they would ignore then throw together at the end of the project. This led to a group of people coming in to steal architects' lunch. Sound familiar?

You can complain about it being "not a thing" all you want, but the industry will prove you wrong. Until architects start closing the door BEFORE the cows get out, architects will continue to see what was once the purview of architects being taken by "others."

Nov 23, 16 11:40 am
Non Sequitur
Salty much?
Nov 23, 16 12:16 pm

What does that even mean? Salty about what, the historical tendency for architects to sell off the parts of the project they like least and then complain that they're losing relevance? I'm annoyed about that, sure, but I'm not going to start questioning the legitimacy of competition justify my own existence. I'll keep doing good work and keep calling out architects that use words and laws instead of their work to justify their supposed superiority.

Nov 23, 16 1:55 pm

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