How to Become an Interior Designer in Pennsylvania
People who have an eye for design and the creative instinct to decorate a stylish and comfortable layout using a combination of different colors, furnishings, and materials might consider pursuing a career in interior design.
Furniture stores, office buildings, hotels, realtors, and homeowners rely on these individuals to create and implement design plans that suit their customers’ tastes and standards.
Education and Training
Pennsylvania is one of the many states that allows people to become interior designers, even if they lack formal training. However, most high-end clients prefer to hire individuals who earn an interior design degree or certificate from an accredited institution.
In fact, people in the industry usually reserve the title of “designer” for those with a degree and refer to those without credentials as “decorators.”
Aspiring designers can find several colleges and Pennsylvania trade schools that offer interior design courses.
How Long Does it Take?
Most vocational certificate programs take less than a year to complete, while earning a degree can take two to four years. Some students even choose to do an additional one to four years of schooling to get a master’s degree in interior design.
What Courses Do You Take?
During their education, these students learn:
- History of architecture and design
- Color theory
- Space Planning
- Materials, methods, and finishes
- Two- and three-dimensional design
- Interior design business practices
- Safety and building codes
Taking a few communications courses could be beneficial to those who are nervous about talking with clients, explaining their design ideas, and negotiating salaries.
Knowing how to use technology like computer-aided design and drafting programs (CAD) might also be helpful when it comes to making digital models of a design idea and getting approval from a client before going forward with the project.
Pennsylvania Interior Design License Requirements
While it’s possible to opt out of getting a Pennsylvania interior design license, you might need one, depending on the projects you hope to do. For example, only licensed interior designers can make structural modifications to a building, so non-licensed decorators will need to hire an architect to oversee certain remodeling jobs.
To obtain an interior design license in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to complete the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ) certification exam. You must have an interior design diploma, certificate, or degree from an accredited program, up to 1,760 hours of work experience, and at least 60 semester or 90 quarter credit hours on your educational transcript to qualify for the exam.
Interior Design License Exam
Qualifying candidates who want to apply for an interior design license in Pennsylvania must complete all three timed sections of the NCIDQ exam. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the test, including the covered content and the length of each exam portion:
Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)
Candidates have three hours to complete the 100 scored questions and 25 unscored pilot prompts on the IDFX. This section of the test covers topics like:
- Human Behavior and Design Environment
- Programming and Site Analysis
- Construction Drawing and Specifications
- Building Systems and Construction
Interior Design Professionals Exam (IDPX)
The IDPX also has 25 unscored pilot questions, plus 150 scored prompts. Test takers have four hours to answer these questions about:
- Professional and Business Practices
- Building Systems and Integration
- Codes and Standards
Interior Design Practicum Exam (PRAC)
While the other two parts of the NCIDQ exam are multiple-choice, the PRAC is an interactive exam in which test takers showcase their knowledge of the design process.
Candidates examine three case studies and use provided resources like a project scenario, universal codes, and a design plan to answer a question about designing in:
- Large Commercial Settings
- Small Commercial Settings
- Multi-Family Residential Settings
You need to score at least 500 out of a possible 800 points to pass the certification exam and receive an official license from the NCIDQ. From there, you can begin applying for interior design jobs and use your credentials to make a good impression on potential employers.
You may even be able to earn a higher salary based on your skills and expertise.
Interior Design Salaries in PA
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical interior design salary in Pennsylvania is similar to the national average. Interior designers in PA tend to earn about $30.00 an hour, which comes out to roughly $60k per year.
Professionals who work in higher-end furniture stores or take on private clients through their own design business might be able to negotiate a higher salary of $80k or more.
Interior design salaries in PA vary depending on where you plan to work. Those who choose to become interior designers in Pennsylvania could earn one of the following annual salaries:
Interior designers use their understanding of color theory and popular style trends to make indoor spaces beautiful, functional, and safe.
What Do They Do?
Daily tasks for these professionals usually include comparing fabrics, finishes and color swatches to determine which pairings would meet their clients’ specifications. Some designers also consult with furniture builders on the best ways to create certain decor items.
Talking to clients is another important part of this job. Designers meet with homeowners, resort managers, furniture store owners, and real estate agents to discuss which furniture items, color schemes, and decorative accents would work best for their desired look.
Interior designers and clients might also talk about ways to make these spaces accessible to people with disabilities.
Experts predict a one-percent increase in interior design jobs across the United States between 2021 and 2031. Despite this limited growth in the overall industry, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also expects roughly 8,200 interior design job openings each year within that time frame as more people change occupations or retire from the workforce.