How to Become an Interior Designer in California

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is the #1 state in the nation for interior design employment!

Education & Training

Get started with an online Certified Residential Interior Designer training course below.

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Program Benefits

All programs should prepare students for certification of some sort.  The ones above will prep students to sit for the Designer Society of America’s Residential Interior Designer certification exam.

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How Long Does Training Take?

The online programs above take 6 months or less, since they are self paced.

How Much Does it Cost?

These online certification courses cost about $2300.

What Do You Study?

  • Explore different design styles and historical movements
  • Learn fundamental elements of residential interior design
  • Understand the process of becoming a residential interior designer and establishing your own business
  • Develop capabilities in conceptualizing and drafting floor plans for residential spaces

California Requirements

Unlike many other states, the state of California does not require an interior designer to obtain certification before working in this capacity. In most cases, however, you will need to complete either a four-year bachelor’s degree program or you will need to complete an interior design certification program before you will be hired by an interior design company.

Value of Education

Employers Prefer Educated Applicants

Although most employers prefer hiring a candidate who has completed at least some form of formal education, it is possible to gain an entry-level position without completing an interior design program.

In this case, however, your employment opportunities will generally be quite limited until you have completed a formal education program or you have built up a portfolio and a reputation that you can use to help you further your career.

Continuing Education


There are numerous two and three year certification programs available for you to select from, many of which are offered online as well as through brick and mortar campuses.

In fact, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design currently accredits about 250 postsecondary art and design programs throughout the United States, most of which offer interior design programs.

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation, which specifically accredits bachelor’s degree programs, currently accredits nearly 150 programs throughout the country.

Bachelors Degree

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published through the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, it is generally best to obtain a bachelor’s degree in interior design if you wish to obtain an entry-level position within the field.

Bachelors vs Associates

The Occupational Outlook Handbook goes on to report that those who complete two or three year certification programs or associate degree programs generally qualify to work as assistants to interior designers after their education is complete, while those who obtain a bachelor’s degree will generally qualify to enter an apprenticeship program.

An associate degree in interior design takes roughly two years to obtain, while a bachelor’s degree takes about four years. However, in addition to a degree, those seeking certification must also have three to four years of work experience and pass the CIDQ interior design certification exam.


In order to become accepted into an interior design school, you generally must first submit a portfolio containing examples of your abilities.  Once you are admitted to a program, you will complete a variety of different courses related to the field of study.

Getting a License

Although licensing is not required in the state of California, many interior designers choose to complete a licensing examination in order to demonstrated their abilities to their potential clients.


In order to take the examination, which is administered through the Council for Interior Design Qualification program, applicants must first complete a total of 6 years of combined education and work experience within the field, with at least two of those years being dedicated to a post-secondary education in the field.

In order to maintain this licensure, interior designers must meet certain continuing education requirements.

In most cases, however, you will need to obtain either an associate or bachelor’s degree in interior design or complete a certification program before you will be hired by an interior design company.


In those states where a licensing examination is required, those who complete an interior design program must then enter a 1 or 3 year apprenticeship program before they are eligible to take a licensing exam.


While the median annual interior designer salary in California statewide is about $54,868, total earnings depend largely on which city you find employment. Below are Median yearly earnings for major areas in the state.

Area Name Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Bakersfield $30.83 $64,130.00
Fresno $32.85 $68,330.00
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $36.79 $76,530.00
North Valley-Northern Mountains $32.79 $68,200.00
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura $33.63 $69,950.00
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $34.80 $72,390.00
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $33.67 $70,030.00
Salinas $34.36 $71,470.00
San Diego-Carlsbad $34.27 $71,290.00
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $42.50 $88,400.00
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $40.39 $84,000.00
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $33.05 $68,740.00
Santa Rosa $35.56 $73,950.00
Stockton-Lodi $28.63 $59,550.00

Occupation:Interior Designers (SOC Code271025)

Career Overview

What Do They Do?

Interior designers work with architects and building developers to design safe, functional, and visually appealing rooms and buildings.

These employees often use blueprints and create conceptual sketches to illustrate plans for interior locations. An interior designer handles both residential and commercial projects to meet each customer’s needs.

In addition to consulting home and business owners about project goals, interior designers also determine project costs, develop a timeline for completion, and source products and materials.

Depending on the type of project and its location, workers must adhere to inspection regulations and building codes while meeting customer demands.


Although the state of California does not require completing of a licensing exam in order to work as an interior designer, most graduates still find it necessary to complete an apprenticeship program before they are able to explore employment opportunities within the field.

While many apprentices work with design or architecture firms, some also complete their apprenticeship programs in furniture stores or in other similar settings.

Furthermore, it is also possible to complete this portion of your training through the Interior Design Experience Program, which is offered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.  Through this program, you can work in an entry-level capacity while being supervised through the program.

Why Should I Become an Interior Designer?

People choose to become interior designers for various reasons, including:

  1. Creativity: Interior design allows individuals to express their creativity and artistic vision by creating aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces.
  2. Passion for Design: Many people are passionate about design and enjoy the process of transforming spaces to improve their appearance and functionality.
  3. Interest in Architecture and Decor: Individuals with a keen interest in architecture, decor, and spatial arrangement are drawn to interior design as a way to apply their knowledge and skills in a practical and creative manner.
  4. Desire to Help Others: Interior designers often work closely with clients to understand their needs and preferences, making a positive impact on people’s lives by creating environments that enhance their well-being and quality of life.
  5. Problem-Solving Skills: Interior design requires problem-solving skills to address challenges such as limited space, budget constraints, and client requirements, which appeals to individuals who enjoy finding innovative solutions.
  6. Versatile Career Opportunities: Interior design offers a wide range of career opportunities, including residential, commercial, hospitality, and retail design, allowing individuals to explore different sectors and specialties within the field.
  7. Flexible Work Schedule: Some interior designers enjoy the flexibility of their work schedule, which may include working independently, freelancing, or collaborating with design firms, allowing for a balance between work and personal life.
  8. Continuous Learning and Development: Interior design is a dynamic field that continuously evolves with new trends, technologies, and materials, providing opportunities for lifelong learning and professional development.
Search Certified Residential Interior Designer Programs

Get information on Certified Residential Interior Designer programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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