An interior design career allows a worker to use their creative capabilities to make spaces beautiful.
These professionals combine a talent for picking the right colors, materials and furnishings with acute interpersonal skills.
Education & Training
An interior design job can allow scheduling flexibility and the option to work from home. The demand for designers is growing as more folks see the benefits of expert design help. There are hundreds of interior design schools that are helping students start on the path toward a successful career.
How Long Does an Interior Design Program Take?
The length of your program determines how long it takes you to become an interior designer.
Certificate programs, such as the ones above, can take as little as six months, while a bachelor’s degree can require four or more years of study.
In general, the combination of education and experience needed for licensure averages four to six years, depending on the path you pursue.
How Much Does It Cost?
Approximately $2400 for the online certificate programs above.
Two-year degrees are cheaper than a four-year degree but transferring credits from an associate degree toward a bachelor’s program is a cost-effective way to get the training you need without overspending.
What Do You Study?
Courses that interior design students may encounter include:
- History of Interior Design
- Art History
- Architectural Graphics
- History of Interior Design
- Residential Design
- Color Theory
- Materials and Textiles
- Non-Residential Design
- Sustainable Design
- Drawing for Designers
- Design Foundations and Processes
- Sales Principles
Those pursuing a two-year degree for interior design should expect a curriculum of general education courses as well as core classes covering commercial design and technology as well as architecture and art history.
Advantage of Certifications & Degrees
Trade schools and community colleges offer interior design programs at certificate and associate degree levels, which is an affordable way to jumpstart a career in interior design.
While a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree specializing in interior design is often the goal for industry professionals, certifications and two-year degrees help future designers hone their creative skills and gain experience.
Short-term programs offer foundational knowledge on design concepts and interior architecture and allow students to build a solid design portfolio, which they’ll need for college and university admissions.
Trade school and community college programs also prepare future designers for further education with hands-on computer-aided design (CAD) experience and courses on color theory and digital tools.
Interior Design School Requirements
To study interior design, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED, and community colleges may have minimum GPA requirements for attendance.
A strong art background demonstrated through high school classes or personal creative projects is helpful.
Attention to detail, effective communication skills, the ability to problem-solve and a good imagination are all skills interior designers need to succeed.
How Much Can You Make in Interior Design?
While interior design careers often require evening and weekend work hours, the salary expectations make the effort worthwhile.
The average salary for interior designers is about $60,340 per year.
Those with advanced degrees or specializations can make more. The top 10% of interior design professionals make about $99,000 annually.
Do Interior Designers Need to Take a Certification Exam?
License and exam requirements differ depending on where you live.
Licensed vs Unlicensed
In some areas, you must be a licensed designer to work independently or with a company.
In other states, you must be licensed to use “interior designer” as a professional title, but you can still work in the industry. Some U.S. states allow both licensed and unlicensed designers to work without professional title restrictions.
The most common exam for interior design is the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, or NCIDQ, which requires a degree, certificate or diploma from an accredited school and two years of full-time work experience.
California has its own licensing exam, which requires test-takers to have a similar mix of education and experience.
Professional trade organizations also offer specialization exams, which allow interior designers to demonstrate their expertise in certain areas. For example, certain credential tests examine a designer’s understanding of the impact of design on human health while other specialization tests prove your knowledge of green building principles.
What Skills Do Interior Designers Need?
Creative & Artistic
Creativity is key in interior design jobs. A person who specializes in visual appeal should have a keen aesthetic awareness to create complementary color palettes, layouts and furniture arrangements. A sense of style also helps designers model spaces in ways that their clients will continue to love for years.
Planning & Visualization
Interior designers should have the ability to visualize how a space will look as they plan it. That way, they can clearly imagine how every element fits together to bring their vision to life.
An eye for detail can also help them guarantee each component of a room fits the desired appearance, no matter how small.
Excellent social skills are essential for interior designers. Their work will require them to regularly interact with clients.
They’ll meet and talk with property owners to create a layout that meets their needs and preferences. To be an effective consultant, a designer must be able to communicate and cooperate well with others.
Problem Solving Skills
Sometimes, challenges may arise in the midst of a construction or renovation project. A delay may occur or an unexpected cost might come into play. A customer’s choice material or furnishing could become unavailable, or a design may turn out differently than what they originally envisioned.
To solve this, the interior designer on the job may need to intervene. They should be capable of devising innovative solutions to appease the client and other workers involved. That might mean revising a design, negotiating with a contractor, or finding an alternative to a desired material.
Interior design job duties include sketching and modeling. Some designers may draw their blueprints by hand, but many use computer-assisted drawing (CAD) programs. They can also use building information modeling (BIM) software to create three-dimensional conceptualizations of the spaces they want to create.
Where Can Interior Designers Work?
According to the BLS, almost one third of interior designers work for design firms. These employers usually hire a number of professionals to serve their customers. Other businesses that employ designers include architectural and engineering companies, furniture sellers, and wholesale traders.
Additionally, more than 20 percent of interior designers are self-employed. This kind of employment gives a person the freedom to choose their clients, the times that they work and more. However, it can be challenging to promote oneself and establish a reliable reputation.
Prospects have the best chance of finding interior designer jobs in high-income communities. The residents there are most likely to have the extra funds to spend on these services. The largest number of designers work in densely populated areas where plenty of well-off individuals and businesses live and operate, such as California and New York.
Interior designers make the inside of homes and businesses attractive and functional. Builders and property owners hire them to manage the selection of all things decorative.
They use color and texture to alter a space to be more cohesive and visually appealing.
In addition to adding beauty to a space, interior designers make sure structures abide by the correct codes and regulations. Their designs must be safe and follow all established rules to protect those who will live or work there. Some also need to consider accessibility standards.
What Are Some Interior Designer Job Duties?
An interior designer can provide assistance during virtually every stage of a building or renovation project.
Some experienced individuals can draw blueprints for the design of a home or business before construction begins. They can help an architect or engineer plan layouts, electrical systems and demolition.
Interior designers can also oversee the building process. They can collaborate with laborers and tradespeople who make their sketches a reality.
Designers will work closely with these people to ensure they execute each specification to their client’s liking.
Make the Vision a Reality
As the building or renovating process ends, interior designers put the finishing touches on a new home or business. They help select paint, floors, counters, cabinets and light fixtures.
They might also help the owners shop for decor that complements the design of their new or updated property.
What Is an Interior Designer’s Schedule Like?
An interior designer’s work hours can vary day to day. That’s because they often adjust their schedules to the availability of their clients. To accommodate a home or businessowner, a designer may have to meet with them on evenings or weekends. They might also have to take time to travel to job sites.
Most interior design jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Applicants who apply to a program such as this may have to submit a portfolio of artistic works to prove their potential. To receive an interior design degree, students normally take courses on design elements, drawing techniques and CAD software.
There are hundreds of interior design schools that offer associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. The National Kitchen and Bath Association has also accredited nearly 100 colleges and art institutes that have specialized classes for designing these spaces.
In some states, professionals must get a license to call themselves a designer. Earning this certificate may involve taking a test or working for a number of years as an interior designer. They can also obtain certificates of their choosing to prove their knowledge in fields such as environmental design.
Can Interior Designers Work From Home?
Many interior designers have to commute to an office. This is especially true for those who have jobs at larger firms. But it is also typical for them to work from home. If a designer has access to the appropriate tools and software to create blueprints and models, they may do their duties in their own house. This is particularly common for those who are self-employed.
What Are Alternate Careers for Interior Designers?
The skills a person learns in an interior design career can translate into a similar position in the building industry. For example, a designer might go back to school to be an architect that creates complete interior and exterior plans for homes, industrial spaces and landscapes.
Many professions let former designers use their creative instincts for different purposes. Some examples are:
These workers use computers for their art, much like interior designers do. They can create photo edits, logos and promotional content for their clients.
Graphic design training courses
Skilled artists might lead the art departments for magazines, online publications, promotional companies and those with product packaging design needs. These employees use photos and graphics to create branding materials that fit their employer’s vision.
An interior designer who wants to get their hands dirty might try arranging flowers. They can use their knack for combining textures and colors to assemble lovely bouquets.
The median salary for an interior design job is about $56,000. That’s roughly $8,000 more than the median for other design-related professions. Those who work for architecture and engineering firms typically earn the highest pay, while those employed by furniture stores receive the lowest wage on average.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the interior design job market will grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028. That’s close to the same rate estimated for all other occupations. It’s approximately double the projected growth for all art and design jobs.
The demand for interior designers is on the rise thanks to many new construction projects popping up around the country. Likewise, many existing structures in the U.S. are now decades old and in need of renovations. A designer can recreate these older spaces or conceptualize a fresh and functional layout for a new building.
Q&A with an Interior Designer
What is Like Being an Interior Designer?
A Q&A session with a Darcy K, the owner of DarcyK Designs, which is an interior design company located in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Q: Can you tell us who you are currently employed with?
A: DarcyK Designs. We are located in Las Vegas, and our focus is on interior design for nightclubs and ultra clubs located throughout Vegas.
Q: What is the most requested service you provide?
A: Design and implementation. Creating proposals and design drawings takes up an incredible amount of an interior designer’s time if you didn’t know it. Club owners expect to have our vision on display prior to an approval of the features. Once our design is accepted, making the vision a reality for our client is what we do best. Working in Las Vegas as an interior designer is demanding work. The expectations are high. Club owners are looking to offer tourists the best. Successful nightclubs have a combination of amenities that make them successful, and environment is one. Our job is to give the club owner the best opportunity to become, or stay, successful.
Q: How long has DarcyK designs been working in Las Vegas?
A: 4 Years. It’s been a wonderful experience after putting in the time to train and travel. To have come as far as I have comes with a great sense of satisfaction. I took everything I learned and put it together with a great place to work and live. The industry here gives me an opportunity to do what I love to do, and do it a lot.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your training and school experience?
A: I grew up in Burlington, Vermont. The opportunity to travel to many different locations around the world was available to me, and the more I traveled, the more I began to notice the differences in taste and culture. I was attracted to the different designs and features of the places I visited. I graduated from the well-known FIDER design program at Virginia Tech, and after my training at the FIDER school, I attended the American International University in London studying hospitality design, European architecture, and photography.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being an interior designer?
A: I consider myself pretty lucky. This was a dream that became reality after much hard work and being able to fulfill a dream is what most of us hope to do, isn’t it? Our clients are our friends. Through the entire process, our attention to what the client wants and needs brings us closer to our clients than other business relationships. Our knowledge of design must work with the clients’ vision. By the time the project is finished, the relationship between designer, owner, and design is complete. We are regularly invited back to do more work for our friends who love what we do for them.
Q: What is the worst part?
A: As far as what I don’t like about my job, I must say that sometimes our vendor relationships could be better. There are too many businesses that are willing to take advantage of others. It is always an upsetting feature of working with other businesses to keep your business working. When problems arise, it’s been our best policy to only accept what responsibility is ours and move on. If a vendor doesn’t perform as expected, we stay prepared to handle any situation that may arise. That’s the worst part: underperformers.
Q: Tell us about an average day at DarcyK Designs.
A: Our office hours are standard 9 to 5. Office hours are different than working hours though. We hope to begin working before and end our day after those hours, but on an average day I would say the day starts about 8:30AM. I’ll go to the studio to go over the calls and reply to customers that came in from the previous day. I will make any appointments I have scheduled. I like to schedule two sets of appointments when necessary so I’ll be at an appointment around 10:30. So, between the time I get to my desk and the time to leave at 10:00, I’ll work on any project set-ups that need attention. I’ll make notes and adjustments that need to be made to the mockup and my staff will complete the idea. Meeting with clients usually means I have my display with the proposal design. It may be just a walk-through, or it may be a status update, the point is, appointment time means business. The same thing will happen in the afternoon at 1:30, and after the appointments, I visit jobsites or return to the studio to finish new work. Add-in the time spent talking to new clients, old clients, potential clients takes up the what the vendors don’t take, and I should get home around 7:00PM.
Q: What are your future career goals?
A: I would want to create a business profile that others want to emulate. I wouldn’t mind having DarcyK Design franchises dotted around the world. Why not? Stopping here just means I’ve concluded my dreams. It may be franchises; it may be a different kind of art or architecture. Anything is possible.
Q: Did your previous work history have anything to do with your current business position?
A: If you consider my schooling to be previous work history then yes. I became an interior designer and built up my own position because of my education and life experiences. I did not work with other designers, but I learned from them when I had the chance.
Q: As an interior designer, what kind of benefits do you receive from the work place?
A: Our company offers all our employees the basic health and vacation benefits. As founder, I retain my own set of health and vacation options, as well as retain revenue profits in the form of my salary. I think the biggest benefit from my job is freedom to run my business and work the way I see fit. That’s the biggest benefit.
Q: Speaking of your salary, would you mind telling a little about the money you make?
A: Our company makes a percentage of the cost build that ranges from 8-20%. The business expenses and liabilities the company has must all be met before a salary is retained by me. On average, I will earn $60,000 after everything is said done.
Q: What makes someone good at this profession?
A: The ability to develop creative designs drawn from the knowledge of various measures of interior design. A commitment to the client and a love for design must be present at all times. What makes someone good at anything is that they enjoy what they do, so what makes someone want to be a good interior designer is a desire to develop creative design implementation.
Q: Would you recommend this career path to others?
A: Yes, interior design is something that I love. Even when I discussed some of the things I do not like about the business, it pales in comparison to the enjoyment I get from my work. My clients are friends, I love the work, I enjoy taking something that is rough and working it out until it shines. I believe that interior design offers everyone the same ability and benefits. I would suggest that those who are interested in this business become well trained in some exacting procedures prior to attempting to do this as their job. Reputation is important in this business, and many unskilled designers have had short lived careers because of being poorly trained and unable to accomplish some of the basics that come with the business.