How I Chose My Interior Design Program

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. 

With so many interior design programs in the Bay Area, it was important to narrow down my options based on my requirements, which are:-

  1. Flexible/part-time: I don’t have the luxury of studying full-time for a course that takes 2-3 years. I needed a program that would allow me to work at least part-time so that I could continue earning money to cover my living expenses (especially in an expensive city like San Francisco)!
  2. Duration: Related to the flexible/part-time point, most full-time bachelor’s degrees in interior design take at least 3 years to complete. I was only willing to compromise on duration (i.e. take a longer course) if it was part-time and allowed for flexibility in my work schedule. Ideally the program would only take 1-2 years to complete (but I soon found out that not many programs in the Bay Area were this short).
  3. Location: I wanted to be based in the city of San Francisco and didn’t want to commute everyday, especially if I would be working in the city. I want to be able to pack in as much in my day as possible.
  4. Reputable name: In my opinion, a reputable school or program would be more welcomed by most employers in the industry and hopefully give me a boost in the job-seeking process.

With the above requirements in mind, I set about researching different interior design courses offered in the Bay Area and decided on UC Berkeley Extension’s Certificate Program in Interior Design and Interior Architecture.

UC Berkley Extension is, as the name suggests, an extension of UC Berkeley. It was founded in 1891 as the adult education division of UC Berkeley and offers continuing education for adults in various fields of study. The Certificate Program in Interior Design and Interior Architecture, as well as the professors who teach the program, are UC Berkeley approved. Most of the professors are professionals working in the interior design industry. All classes are taught in classrooms at the SOMA campus in San Francisco (this is a huge plus for me as I want to take classes in the city for the sake of convenience).

The Program comprises of 21 required courses (57 semester units) and two to four electives (4 semester units) for a total of 61 semester units. Students can take up to 5 years to complete the Program and at the end of it, they gain a Certificate. It is possible to complete the course in 2.5 years if taken full-time but may take up to 5 years if taken part-time. The Program facilitates students to build their portfolio and the Certificate provides educational credits needed to qualify for the California Council of Interior Design Certification exam (IDEX) and the National Council for Interior Design Qualification certification exam (NCIDAQ).

The only prerequisite for applying for the Program is a bachelor’s degree. I like this since it means that I’ll be studying alongside other university graduates and not 18 year olds or high school graduates, so I’ll be with other students in a similar stage of life as myself (gosh I make myself sound so old!), who are embarking on further education beyond university and/or who have already entered the workforce and are looking to switch into interior design.

How much does it cost?

“Each course is priced individually, and you pay the course fee at the time of enrollment. The certificate has an estimated total cost of $20,500 (not including textbooks, course materials or registration fee). Course fees are subject to change.”


Having emailed the program coordinator to find out more, I was informed that all students who graduated in the last two years who wanted to work is doing so, and graduates have been very successful is securing the kind of jobs they want. Many start working even before they complete the program and  a number of students do internships for credit each term.

I plan to apply for the summer semester which starts in June 2017. So excited!

To find out more about the Program, click the link above.

Other programs I looked into:

  • California College of the Arts – bachelor’s degree in interior design: While this is very highly ranked (#3 in the West Coast), it’s a 4 year, full-time bachelor’s degree and the cost was too high for me (approx. US$39,000 per academic year).
  • Academy of Art University – bachelor’s degree Interior Design: Again, this is a 4 year, full-time bachelor’s degree and the cost was too prohibitive (approx. US$105,000 just for tuition fees alone). This degree also has an extremely low (only 10 students in 2014/15) graduation rate which seemed a bit worrying.


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