Interior Design Courses – Associate Degree | Penn Foster College

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Interior Design

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Associate Degree Program Overview

If you want to learn how to become an interior designer, take the first steps with Penn Foster College. Our Interior Design Associate Degree program can help you develop the design, drafting, and business skills relevant for a career in interior design. This program provides 45 credits towards meeting the educational requirement for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination.¹

Penn Foster College’s online interior design courses are a perfect fit for busy adults juggling work and family responsibilities. You can study from home or on the go, all at your own pace as you work toward your degree. And our supportive faculty will be here to help you every step of the way.

Associate Degrees from Penn Foster College are awarded under licensing from the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Interior Design Associate's Degree program prepares students for an entry level position in the field of Interior Design by satisfying the education requirements needed to sit for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) licensing exam. Students will still need to complete 7,040 hours of work experience under the supervision of a licensed or NCIDQ-certified designer before taking the NCIDQ exam.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts, natural sciences, and social sciences
  • Identify architectural periods, styles, features and elements
  • Demonstrate the use of line, light, texture and perspective through drawings and sketches and creating a presentation board
  • Discuss the fundamental principles of the design process for residential and commercial design
  • Identify various textiles and explain how they are used and produced
  • Recognize furniture periods, styles, construction, and how they are developed
  • Demonstrate skills required to navigate the computer-aided drafting (CAD) program to prepare 2-dimensional drawings
  • Demonstrate the knowledge of various systems such as air quality control, lighting, fire safety, acoustics, and conservation in all types of buildings
  • Identify and specify products, properties and uses of non-structural materials. Address environmental concerns and locate manufacturers and distributers of design materials
  • Design lighting for specific spaces by comprehending lighting options and applications, create lighting plans, schedules and specifications
  • Demonstrate the ability to market ideas, attract clients, budget and manage client relations by creating a mission statement, business card and a PowerPoint presentation of a redesigned space
  • Create and coordinate functional and creative residential and commercial interior spaces that include site plans, bubble and blocking diagrams, floor plans, elevations and materials on a presentation board
  • Discuss how to adhere to design codes and regulations for interior spaces
  • Understand how to establish a business and focus on the details of proper business practices
  • Demonstrate understanding of design requirements and processes by specializing in a particular topic area in one of three electives choices

Semester 1

Basic Skills Assessment

All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

ILS103 Information Literacy 1 credit

Get better at finding and using information!


  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.
CSC104 Computer Applications 3 credits

This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate popular software tools such as Windows® and Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.
GRD105 Color Theory 3 credits

This course covers the analysis of the dynamic interaction of color and its implications for designers and artists. It will provide an understanding of the different factors you should consider before starting your next project or design.


  • Describe the components of light and the importance of color as an aspect of light.
  • Use color wheels and color spheres.
  • Incorporate color in your work by understanding the basics of color theory.
  • Use color in both two- and three-dimensional projects.
  • Learn how color in nature and culture can be a guiding tool for your own work.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Color Basics

BCT101 History of Interior Design 3 credits

Professional interior designers are expected to have a grasp of design history, to know the practices of the past in terms of styles, and to know the names of the individuals who generated the most interesting and influential approaches to design.


  • Learn the archeological evidence of patterns and design in prehistoric living spaces.
  • Study the architectural structures of Classical Greece and Rome, including arches, vaults, and domes.
  • Learn about early Christian, Byzantine, and Romanesque design.
  • Learn how Islamic and Asian traditions influenced interior design.
  • Study the elements of Gothic style, including construction techniques of cathedrals, churches, and secular buildings.
  • Understand the features of Colonial, American Georgian, and Federal design styles.
  • Learn the major elements of Victorian style in both Britain and the United States.

Additional Course Materials

Textbook: A History of Interior Design (with CD)

BCT105 Drawing for Interiors 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn the basic vocabulary and principles behind the timeless form of communication we call interior design. The interior design industry is a wonderful place to use imagination, color, texture, and precision to create spaces that meet the needs and desires of clients. Drawing is one specialty used to communicate these concepts. While levels of artistic abilities range from limited to quite talented, the need to develop this skill is essential. Beginning with basic sketching for fun and ending with strategies to draw high-level plans, you’ll finish this course with concepts needed to practice and refine this art. Your skills will develop with time. It’s critical however, to continue to practice. 


  • Understand and demonstrate the use of line, light, and texture.
  • Incorporate conceptual/bubble diagrams into a design.
  • Use the concept of perspective drawing.
  • Use the concept of one- and two-point eyeball perspective in design.
  • Enhance your drawings using the overlay method.
  • Create a client-ready presentation board.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Design Graphics: Drawing Techniques for Design Professionals

Learning Aids: Drawing tool kit containing a sampling of utensils needed to complete this course, including a sketchbook

HUM102 Art Appreciation 3 credits

This course will provide you with the foundational knowledge needed to critique a variety of artwork.


  • Understand artistic media.
  • Identify historical periods and artistic movements.
  • Explain the roles of the artist and the viewer.
Proctored Exam

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 2

ENG100 English Composition 3 credits

This course will allow you to polish and enhance your writing skills.


  • Effectively use free writing and brainstorming.
  • Perfect your ability to edit and revise your writing.
  • Apply techniques for getting the reader’s attention.
  • Write descriptive essays, first-person narratives, reflective essays, persuasive essays, and effective thesis statements.
BCT115 Interior Design Fundamentals 3 credits

Professional interior designers are expected to have a grasp of design history, know the practices of the past in terms of “styles,” and know the names of the individuals who generated the most interesting and influential approaches to design.


  • Discuss the history of interior design and the fundamental principles of the design process.
  • Explain the basic space-planning process for both residential and commercial interiors.
  • Identify major building systems and codes that affect the design process.
  • Choose furniture, fabrics, and background elements for interior spaces.
  • Use environmentally-friendly materials.
  • Identify professional organizations within the interior design field, as well as the typical career trajectory for beginning designers.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Beginnings of Interior Environment

BCT135 Textiles 3 credits

As you work through this course, you may be amazed at the different ways textiles apply to your life.


  • Identify textile fibers by examining their properties.
  • Distinguish natural fibers from synthetic fibers.
  • Understand how yarn is processed and classified.
  • Describe basic fabrication techniques, including weaving and knitting.
  • Provide an overview of fabric finishing techniques, including dyeing and printing.
  • Care for textile products.
  • Identify the legal, sustainability, and environmental issues related to textile production.
  • Describe textiles and their various uses and applications.

Additional Course Materials

Textbook: Textiles

BCT140 History of Furniture 3 credits

Work your way through the designs and uses of furniture from ancient times through today.


  • Learn about the furniture construction techniques from the ancient and modern worlds.
  • Study the impact political and cultural events had on furniture and architectural development.
  • Understand the ways in which historical furniture styles related to interior room settings.
  • Learn the technological advancements that impacted furniture design and construction.

Additional Course Materials

Textbook: Designer’s Guide to Furniture Styles

Science Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

SCI110 - Earth Science 
This course will allow you to learn about planet Earth and the various aspects of the environment.


  • Describe specific characteristics of Earth.
  • Describe different types of rocks and minerals.
  • Discuss the various components of our solar system.
  • Explain the components of weather and climates.

SCI120 - Introduction to Biology
This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.


  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

SCI140 - Nutrition 
This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.


  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.
Proctored Exam

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 3

BCT145 CAD for Interiors 3 credits

In this course, you will learn the basic information and skills required to navigate the most widely used computer aided drafting (CAD) program employed in the preparation of 2-dimensional drawings.


  • Maneuver and interact with the AutoCAD® user interface.
  • Utilize the core Draw and Modify commands to create and edit simple drawing geometries.
  • Create and insert blocks into a drawing.
  • Add fill and hatch patterns to a drawing.
  • Assign color, linetypes, and lineweights to drawing layers.
  • Draw elevation view drawings.
  • Create and use a template file.
  • Print and plot a drawing file.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Software: Students will have access to a free, 3-year student version of AutoCAD® from Autodesk.®
  • Textbook: AutoCAD® 2017 for the Interior Designer
BCT150 Building Systems for Interior Design 3 credits

To truly be an effective designer for your design team’s clients, you should have a core understanding of the various systems within buildings and how they work.


  • Describe the various systems within all buildings.
  • Identify structures, systems, and items within the walls of buildings.
  • Select design items that are ecological and that promote conservation.
  • Understand the importance of indoor air quality and how design decisions affect it.
  • Summarize lighting design strategies.
  • Understand the importance of fire safety and the role designers play in ensuring fire safety.
  • Apply acoustic design principles.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Building Systems for Interior Designers

BCT165 Materials for Interiors 3 credits

This course will build on what you learned in Building Systems and walk you through the finishing materials that you’ll deal with regularly. You’ll learn about materials used for floors, walls, ceilings, and other components, and the myriad of choices that are available.


  • Understand the properties and uses of nonstructural design materials, such as flooring, wall coverings, and paint.
  • Select materials for a project based on characteristics such as durability, sustainability, price, and style.
  • Identify the proper methods of installation and disposal of interior materials.
  • Design in environmentally conscious ways.
  • Identify products and manufacturers who participate in the recycling process.
  • Describe the materials commonly used in kitchen and bath design.
  • Locate manufacturers and distributers of design materials.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Materials and Components of Interior Architecture

BCT235 Architectural Lighting Design 3 credits

This course will teach you the basics of lighting as well as many practical applications for various spaces and industries.


  • Discuss the functions of illumination in interior spaces.
  • Identify lamps and luminaires that are available for different lighting projects.
  • Compile a list of lighting needs and questions for your clients.
  • Install and use lighting and special effects controls.
  • Select appropriate lighting fixtures for residences, workspaces, classrooms, health care, hospitality, and retail spaces.
  • Draw a reflected ceiling plan and write lighting specifications.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Lighting Design Basics

SSC130 Essentials of Psychology 3 credits

This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about human development throughout the life span.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

Textbook: Psychology and Your Life

BCT205 Marketing and Sales in Interior Design 3 credits

Business and marketing skills are crucial for the success of interior designers.


  • Design specialized promotional resources.
  • Establish a company profile that attracts clients.
  • Find clients who are likely to want your services.
  • Budget marketing efforts accurately to avoid unnecessary expenses.
  • Handle complaints diplomatically and with minimal problems.
  • Build better relationships with clients.
  • Create proper contracts and letters of agreement.
  • Set appropriate prices for your services.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Marketing and Client Relations for Interior Designers

Proctored Exam

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 4

BCT201 Residential Design 3 credits

Create designs for rooms and spaces in a home. This course is an exciting step in your studies! You’ve reached the point at which you can apply your knowledge to a tangible space.


  • Understand the ergonomics, organizational flow, required clearances, codes and constraints, and electrical and mechanical issues of all interior residential spaces.
  • Explain the functionality and design needs of entrances and circulation spaces.
  • Identify the major client needs and design components of bedrooms, kitchens, baths, and leisure spaces.
  • Understand the design issues related to utility and work spaces, such as laundry rooms and garages.
  • Identify the standard types of residential building platforms and basic structural components of residential housing.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Residential Interior Design: A Guide to Planning Spaces

BCT202 Commercial Design 1 3 credits

The field of interior design includes many specialties. Commercial design is a specialty that's both exciting and constantly evolving.


  • Create commercial design plans that incorporate sustainable design features, national safety and security guidelines, and accessibility features.
  • Understand commercial interior design terms and concepts.
  • Explain how various aesthetic elements, mechanical systems interfaces, and code issues affect the office environment.
  • Plan, design, and create specifications for home and corporate business offices.
  • Define the purposes, goals, and operational objectives of lodging facilities.
  • Understand the special needs affecting the design of health-care facilities.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Designing Commercial Interiors

BCT215 Codes for Interiors 3 credits

Follow the correct procedures to create safe environments for your clients. In this course, you'll gain knowledge of why understanding building codes is crucial for interior design and the business of design.


  • Understand building codes you must follow based on the location of a particular project.
  • Cite code publications, federal regulations, and standards that pertain to interior design.
  • Determine occupancy classifications and occupant loads for interior spaces.
  • Locate codes for construction types and building sizes, fire barriers, smoke barriers, and fire protection systems.
  • Identify codes for means of egress, including exit access, capacities, widths, distance, lighting, and signage.
  • Determine the plumbing and mechanical requirements for kitchens and baths.
  • Determine electrical and communication requirements for interior spaces.
  • Identify types, finishes, and tests of interior furnishings.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: The Codes Guidebook for Interiors

BCT225 Professional Practice 3 credits

Review the history of the interior design profession and look at different career specialties within the profession.


  • Identify what makes a good interior designer, as well as the different phases of the project management process
  • Describe how interior design businesses meet their legal and ethical obligations
  • Identify what information a design contract needs to be valid and protect the interior design practice
  • Differentiate among various promotional and marketing methods interior designers use to generate business
  • Identify various accounting terms and methods interior designers use for managing finances and calculating prices and fees
  • Identify the various nuances that are part of creating and managing an interior design business
  • Discuss ways an interior designer should present him- or herself when applying for and obtaining a job, as well as opportunities that would allow an interior designer to further his or her career

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Professional Practice for Interior Designers

MAT115 Intermediate Algebra 3 credits

This course introduces basic algebraic concepts that you’ll need to be successful in your career.


  • Understand the systems of equations, polynomials, and radicals.
  • Factor polynomial expressions.
  • Simplify rational expressions.
Interior Design Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

BCT230 – Kitchen and Bath Design
This course covers the fundamental design principles and planning procedures for kitchens and bathrooms. Special emphasis is placed on cabinetry, countertops, storage, appliances, plumbing, electrical/mechanical considerations, and sustainability.


  • Understand design codes and structural requirements.
  • Identify components of each room.

Additional Course Material:

Textbook: Kitchen and Bath Design: A Guide to Planning Basics

BCT245 – Environmentally Responsible Design
This course teaches design professionals how to apply “green” principles to their projects.


  • Understand global sustainability.
  • Explain indoor environmental quality.
  • Describe energy and water issues.
  • Evaluate finishes and furnishings.
  • Identify evaluation instruments.
  • Identify certification programs.
  • Understand U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Environmentally Responsible Interior Design (ERID) specifications.

Additional Course Material:

Textbook: Environmentally Responsible Design

BCT248 – Commercial Design 2
This course is a continuation of Commercial Design 1. Students enrolled in this course will learn about all aspects of commercial space planning.


  • Know code requirements.
  • Identify design applications.
  • Understand historical perspectives of commercial buildings, including food and beverage facilities, retail spaces, senior living facilities, institutional facilities, and cultural/recreational areas.
Proctored Exam

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later, Microsoft® Office 365, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

Graduation Requirements

  • Complete all 4 semesters.
  • Pass all courses.
  • Achieve a cumulative Quality Point Average (QPA) of 2.0 or higher.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.
Although this outline covers all four semesters of your program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Credits earned in Penn Foster programs may transfer to some, but not all, learning institutions. If you are planning to continue your education with another school after you earn your degree from Penn Foster, you should check with that school regarding credit transfer policies.
Microsoft, Windows, Excel, and PowerPoint are registered trademarks and Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Pentium is a trademark of Intel Corporation and its subsidiaries registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
AutoCAD is a trademark of Autodesk, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view an Interior Design Degree sample lesson, click here.

Interior Design Associate Degree Program Details

In Penn Foster College's Interior Design courses, you'll study topics such as:

Online Interior Design Associates Degree

Interior designers tackle residential and commercial design projects, managing everything from color analysis to legal and financial issues when renovating indoor spaces. Here are a few qualities that effective interior designers have in common:

  • Intuitive: It’s important to stay a few steps ahead of trends and trust your instincts.
  • Persistent: You need to work hard and stand by your projects and ideas to get others on board.
  • Self-motivated: You take charge of projects and always offer opinions and advice to help others.
  • Creative: In design you need to think outside the box and bring in fresh ideas.
  • Detail oriented: It’s important to have a sharp eye and check things twice.

Penn Foster has a great faculty and staff that truly care about the well-being of their current and future students. Penn Foster has truly helped me obtain my degree through distance learning. I am a military spouse and, up until my last semester, I worked full-time and the convenience to be able to work at my own pace is excellent. My shipments are always on time and I never had any problems with getting the answers I needed regarding my coursework. Penn Foster has given me a life and a career. I feel joy to be graduating in just a few short months and I'm very happy knowing Penn Foster provided me with the knowledge I need to excel in my career. Don't think twice... please enroll today.

- Shantell P., Penn Foster College Graduate

I am currently in my second semester and Penn Foster College is THE BEST online college for those of us who have full-time jobs and shift workers, because Penn Foster gives us the flexibility to study at our own convenience, at our own pace, and WITHOUT deadlines. And the cost is VERY inexpensive for a two-year Associate Degree.

- Todd L., Penn Foster College Student

I enjoyed very much the ability to become part of the Penn Foster group. The instructors were extremely helpful and kind. They were always there when I needed help or just plain needed advice.

- Ashley L., Penn Foster College Graduate

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Books and learning aids such as student trial version of AutoCAD® and drawing tool kit
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Interior Design academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

What is the difference between Penn Foster Career School’s Interior Decorating Career Diploma and Penn Foster College's Interior Design Associate Degree programs?

The Penn Foster College Interior Design Associate Degree Program teaches students to tackle residential and commercial design projects, covering everything from color analysis to legal and financial issues. The Penn Foster Career School Interior Decorator Career Diploma Program focuses solely on design aspects such as style, budget, and room layouts. Note that interior designers are required to be licensed in most states, while interior decorators aren't. Interior design graduates can work as design assistants but will have to have several years of assistant work before they can take the licensing exam. Interior designers must have knowledge of building codes and construction, while interior decorators often do not.

Is the Penn Foster College Interior Design Associate Degree Program eligible for industry recognition and/or certification?

Graduates of the Penn Foster College Interior Design Program may submit Penn Foster College transcripts to the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) to receive education hours toward NKBA certification requirements. Graduates may also apply for membership to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Additionally, this program provides 45 credits towards meeting the educational requirement for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) licensing exam. Students must also complete at least 5,280 hours of work experience under the supervision of a licensed and/or NCIDQ-certified designer before becoming eligible to sit for the exam.

Will my Penn Foster College credits transfer to other schools?

Penn Foster College credits have been accepted for transfer into many colleges across the country. Students should check with a specific college to see if they accept our credits, as credit transfer can vary depending on the school. Also, the American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for many Penn Foster College courses. No form of accreditation guarantees that any learning institution will accept credits from any school as transfer credits. For more information on transferring credits, click here.

More FAQs >

¹ This program provides 45 credits towards meeting the educational requirement needed for the NCIDQ licensing exam. Students must also complete at least 5,280 hours of work experience under the supervision of a licensed and/or NCIDQ-certified designer before becoming eligible to sit for the exam.

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