California is a dream destination for anyone interested in architecture, art, and design. Throw in the beautiful beaches, amazing natural scenery, and a pleasant year-round climate and it becomes the ideal place to study interior design.

In fact, of all the states in America, California is the most amenable for students looking to pursue a career as an interior designer. The state is home to some of the best schools in the country for interior design, many of which are located in or near several major metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.

California Interior Design Schools

Interior design schools in California range from small colleges to large universities, and offer a variety of academic programs that provide students with a comprehensive interior design education. As one of the world’s greatest centers for design and architecture, students interested in pursuing a degree in interior design will find no shortage of options in California.

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Online Interior Design Schools in California

Over the last decade, the landscape of online learning has evolved dramatically, with an increasing number of high-quality programs available at all degree levels. Today, over 60% of all programs offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels are available online, providing students with access to high-quality education without ever having to leave their homes.

If you are interested in pursuing an interior design degree but are unable to attend a traditional on-campus program, there are a number of excellent online interior design schools in California that can accommodate your needs. These programs offer the same rigorous coursework and challenging curriculum as traditional programs but allow you to learn at your own pace without relocating or limiting your education options.

School Rankings

Best Interior Design Schools in California

To qualify for our ranking list, a school must be recognized by the California Council for Interior Design Certification and offer an interior design program at the bachelor’s or master’s degree level.

Our ranking of the best interior design schools in California is created through an objective assessment process that measures the academic performance and reputation of each qualifying school, as measured by eight weighted categories: Academic Experience, Graduation Rate Performance, Early Career Success, Financial Aid, Student Selectivity, Faculty Resources, Long-Term Graduate Success, and Value.

Best Colleges
California College of the Arts

1111 8th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

San Jose State University

One Washington Square, San José, CA 95192

Interior Designers Institute

1061 Camelback Street Newport Beach, CA 92660

Academy of Art University

79 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

San Francisco State University

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132

Design Institute of San Diego

8555 Commerce Avenue, San Diego, CA 92121

California State University Long Beach

1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

919 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90015

California State University Fresno

5241 N. Maple Avenue, Fresno, CA 93740

California State University Sacramento

6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819


Contributing Data Sources

What You Will Learn in Interior Design School

Interior design schools in California teach students how to plan, design, and manage the built environment. Graduates of these programs will be able to identify user requirements and develop functional plans for spaces that meet those needs.

They will also have a good understanding of building materials, lighting, safety features, and even furniture elements that would be effective in creating functional and aesthetically pleasing interior spaces. Some interior design programs even place a significant emphasis on business skills, providing students with the opportunity to learn about financial planning and marketing. Other common course topics include:

  • Fundamentals of Design
  • Advanced Drawing and Rendering Techniques
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
  • Theory & Elements of Design and Color
  • Building Codes and Regulations
  • Professional Practices in Interior Design
  • Principles of Sustainable Design
  • Construction Methods and Materials
  • Environmental Control Systems

Interior Design Schools in California FAQ

There are several paths to becoming an interior designer in California, each of which requires a significant amount of education and work experience. The most common route is to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in interior design from an accredited school, followed by two years of work experience in the field under the supervision of a certified interior designer.

Other options include a) completing a three-year accredited interior design program and earning three years of work experience, b) completing a two-year degree and earning four years of experience, and c) acquiring a combination of eight years of interior design education and diversified interior design experience.

No, you do not need a license, nor is a license available, to practice interior design in California. However, state law provides for an optional certification that allows interior designers to use the title “Certified Interior Designer” or CID. You may not use any of the terms including “CID” or “registered”, or call yourself a Certified Interior Designer unless you are certified by the California Council for Interior Design Certification.

California is one of the top five highest-paying states for interior designers. According to the most recent data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for Interior Designers was $70,310 in 2020. This amount is equivalent to an hourly mean wage of $33.80, which is 13.5% higher than the national average. California interior designers in the top 90th percentile earned $112,070 or more in 2020.

With its great weather and beautiful landscapes, California is an ideal place to work as an interior designer. The state offers a wide variety of opportunities for designers in both the commercial and residential sectors, and the ever-growing population means that there is always demand for new and innovative interior design solutions. Additionally, California has a number of professional organizations and certification programs that provide support and resources to interior designers working in the state.