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Grad Program: Interior Architecture

Basic Information

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?

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