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How to Become an Interior Designer

By Alyciah Beavers

Published:

Interior design is more than just arranging furniture and picking out color schemes; it’s about crafting immersive, harmonious environments that leave a lasting impression. In this dynamic and rewarding profession, you can shape how people experience their spaces- a cozy home, a trendy office, or a luxurious hotel. So, if you’re ready to turn your passion for design into a fulfilling career, let’s explore the exciting world of interior design and discover the steps to becoming a sought-after interior designer.

Career Summary

Interior Designer Salary

Interior Designer Salary

According to Glassdoor, an interior designer makes $69K yearly, with an average salary of $65K. However, depending on the state, one can make an additional 4K yearly through commissions, profit sharing, tips, and bonuses.

Here is the average interior designer salary per each level:

  • Entry Salary (US$57k)
  • Median Salary (US$65k)
  • Executive Salary (US$69k)

An interior designer’s median salary is higher than the average annual wage for all occupations in the United States, which was reported to be $61,900 in 2022.

What does an Interior Designer do?

An interior designer creates functional and aesthetically pleasing residential, commercial, or industrial interior spaces. Their primary role is developing a plan, researching, coordinating, and managing different projects. An interior designer job description has different roles and responsibilities, including:

  • Working with clients to develop a design concept that aligns with their goals, style preferences, and budget.
  • Helping select materials and furnishings by choosing the appropriate materials, such as flooring, wall coverings, lighting, furniture, and accessories.
  • Coordinating with contractors, architects, and other professionals involved in the construction or renovation of a space.
  • Assisting with project management by managing time, budget, and schedules to ensure everything progresses smoothly and is completed on time.

Interior Designer Career Progression

  • Design Assistant or Junior Interior Designer: As an entry-level position, design assistants or junior interior designers support senior designers and architects. They help with drafting plans, creating mood boards, and sourcing materials.
  • Interior Designer: Interior designers work on projects under the guidance of senior designers or project managers. They take on more responsibilities, including client meetings, space planning, and material selection.
  • Senior Interior Designer: Senior interior designers have more experience and often oversee projects from start to finish. They lead design teams, manage client relationships, and ensure projects are executed according to design plans and budgets.
  • Design Director: Design directors are responsible for setting the creative direction of projects and managing a team of designers. They work closely with clients to understand their needs and develop design concepts.
  • Design Studio Manager: Design studio managers oversee the daily operations of a design firm or in-house design department. They are responsible for staffing, budgets, and project scheduling.
  • Interior Design Consultant: Interior design consultants are experts and often work independently. They provide specialized design services to clients, such as space planning, color consultations, and design advice.
  • Chief Design Officer (CDO) or Chief Creative Officer (CCO): In larger design firms or corporations, CCOs are responsible for the organization’s creative strategy and design quality. They may report directly to the CEO and influence the company’s design direction.
Interior Designer Career Progression

Pros:

  • Interior designers work on various projects, including residential, commercial, hospitality, and healthcare spaces, ensuring that no two days are the same.
  • Seeing a project come to life and its positive impact on clients’ lives can be highly rewarding and satisfying, thus providing some level of personal fulfillment to the designers.
  • Sustainable design practices are becoming increasingly important, and interior designers can be crucial in promoting eco-friendly and sustainable design solutions.
  • The interior designer’s salary reflects the growing demand for interior design services, leading to higher levels of job security in the profession.

Cons:

  • Design projects come with tight deadlines, demanding clients, and unexpected challenges. The pressure to meet client expectations and deliver on time can lead to high stress levels.
  • The income can be inconsistent, especially for freelance designers or those just starting their careers.
  • Dealing with difficult clients and handling demanding or indecisive clients is emotionally taxing.
  • Heavy competition in the interior design industry makes it challenging to stay relevant and attract clients in a saturated market.

Useful Interior Designer Skills to Have

  • Creativity
  • Spatial Awareness
  • Good Grasp of Color Theory
  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Space Planning

Popular Interior Design Specialties

  • Residential Interior Design
  • Commercial Interior Design
  • Hospitality Design
  • Healthcare Design
  • Feng Shui Design

How to become an Interior Designer

Interior Designer 5 Steps to Career

Understanding these foundational steps will set you on the right course to becoming an interior designer and learning the interior designer job description:

Education

Do I Need a Degree to Become an Interior Designer?

No, you do not necessarily need a formal degree to become an interior designer in many places, but having one can significantly enhance your career prospects and opportunities. The ideal way to be a licensed interior designer is through getting an education. Having a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of two years of job training puts you in a better position to get a job.

The specific requirements for becoming an interior designer can vary depending on your location and the industry standards in your region. In some places, interior designers may need a license or certification to practice professionally. For example, California expects potential interior designers to take the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) examination.

Licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, so it’s essential to research the regulations in your area. However, to become a nationally recognized interior designer, you should pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination.

Most states have no federal rules indicating that interior designers must get a degree. However, the American Society of Interior Designers and the International Interior Design Association advocate for licensing and registration.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Education: Many interior designers hold a bachelor’s degree in interior design or a related field, such as architecture, fine arts, or industrial design. These programs cover design principles, space planning, color theory, building codes, and computer-aided design (CAD) software. Formal education can provide you with essential knowledge and skills.
  • Portfolio: A strong portfolio showcasing your design projects, creativity, and problem-solving abilities is crucial in interior design. It does not matter whether you have a degree, as your portfolio demonstrates your interior designer skills to potential clients or employers, thus keeping you marketable.

What are the Benefits of Getting a Degree in Interior Design?

Getting a degree in interior design can be important for several reasons, although it ultimately depends on your career goals and individual circumstances.

Here are some reasons why pursuing a degree in interior design can be valuable:

  • Professional Knowledge and Skills: A degree program in interior design provides you with a comprehensive education in the principles and practices of design, including color theory, space planning, furniture design, materials, lighting, and more. This knowledge equips you with the skills needed to excel in the field.
  • Credibility and Recognition: Many clients and employers in the interior design industry prefer to work with professionals with formal education and credentials. A degree can enhance your credibility and signal to others that you have received proper training.
  • Design Portfolio Development: During your degree program, you’ll have the opportunity to work on real-world projects and build a portfolio. A strong portfolio showcases your design abilities and securing client job opportunities.
  • Networking Opportunities: College and university programs often provide opportunities to connect with professors, classmates, and industry professionals. These connections can be valuable for mentorship, internships, job placements, and collaboration on design projects.
  • Industry Trends and Technologies: Interior design is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving with changing trends and technologies. Formal education can update you on the latest design trends, software tools, and sustainable design practices.
  • Ethical and Regulatory Knowledge: Interior designers must often adhere to ethical standards and regulations regarding safety, accessibility, and environmental sustainability. A degree program can provide a solid understanding of these essential aspects.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Interior designers frequently encounter complex design challenges that require problem-solving skills. Your education will help you develop the ability to analyze problems and develop creative solutions.
  • Career Advancement: Some positions, such as senior or managerial roles in interior design firms, may require a degree as a prerequisite.
  • Access to Resources: Many universities and colleges offer access to design libraries, workshops, software licenses, and other resources that can benefit your design projects.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Interior Design?

The time it takes to earn a degree in interior design varies depending on the level of education and the specific program you choose.

Here are some common options:

  • Associate’s Degree: An Associate’s degree in Interior Design takes about two years to complete. This degree provides a foundational understanding of interior design principles and can be a good starting point for entry-level positions.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A Bachelor’s degree in interior design usually takes four years to complete. This program offers a more comprehensive education in interior design, including coursework in design theory, space planning, materials, and technology.
  • Master’s Degree: If you pursue a Master’s degree in Interior Design, it takes an additional 1 to 2 years beyond a Bachelor’s degree. This level of education is often chosen by those who want to specialize in a particular area of interior design or advance their careers in teaching or research.

How Much Does it Cost to Study Interior Design at University?

The cost of studying interior design at a university is different depending on several factors, including the location of the university, the level of the program undergraduate or graduate, whether the university is public or private, and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student for public universities in the United States.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Tuition Fees: It is different based on the institution. In the United States, for example, public universities often have lower tuition rates for in-state residents than out-of-state residents. Here is a breakdown of the costs:
    • Undergraduate Tuition Fee (In-State): $10,281
    • Undergraduate Tuition Fee (Out-State): $28,682
    • Graduate Fee (In-State): $12,536
    • Graduate Fee (Out-State): $29,631
  • Location: The cost of living in the city or region of the university can also impact the overall cost of your education. Some cities have a higher cost of living, including housing, food, and transportation.
  • Additional Costs: Besides tuition, you should consider other costs such as textbooks, supplies, studio fees, and any specialized equipment or software required for your coursework.
  • Financial Aid: Many universities offer financial aid, scholarships, and grants to help students cover the cost of their education. Explore these opportunities, as they can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.

Can I Become an Interior Designer through Online Education?

Yes, you can become an interior designer through online education. Many accredited institutions and universities offer online programs in interior design, which can lead to a degree or certification in the field.

Here’s how you can pursue a career in interior design through online education:

  • Research Accredited Programs: Find a reputable online school offering interior design programs. Look for programs accredited by organizations such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) or other relevant accreditation bodies in your region.
  • Choose a Program: Select a program that suits your goals and needs. Some programs offer Bachelor’s degrees in interior design, while others provide certificates or diplomas. Consider factors like program duration, curriculum, faculty expertise, and cost.
  • Prerequisites: Check if the program has any specific admission requirements or conditions. Some programs need a high school diploma or equivalent, while others may have additional requirements, such as a portfolio of your work or letters of recommendation.
  • Curriculum: Review the curriculum to see that it covers the fundamentals of interior design, including space planning, color theory, materials, and construction techniques. Look for programs offering computer-aided design (CAD) software courses and other relevant technology.
  • Online Learning Platform: Familiarize yourself with the online learning platform used by the institution. Ensure you can access the necessary software and equipment, such as a computer with reliable internet connectivity.
  • Self-Discipline: Online education requires self-discipline and time management skills, so stay on track with your coursework.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become an Interior Designer?

What do interior designers do? Make spaces beautiful and functional. Once you understand this, your next step might be looking at available web resources to help you learn and develop these skills.

Here are some popular ones:

  • Houzz: Offers a wealth of design inspiration, articles, and forums where you can learn from industry professionals.
  • Architectural Digest: A leading design and architecture magazine with a website featuring articles, photos, and videos on interior design trends.
  • Numerous interior design blogs and websites offer tips, tutorials, and insights. Some popular ones include Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, and The Spruce.
  • Reddit (r/InteriorDesign): It is a subreddit dedicated to interior design discussions, showcasing projects, and seeking advice.
  • Platforms like Canva or RoomSketcher offer online design tools to help you practice and refine your interior design skills.
  • If you plan to use design software like SketchUp, many online tutorials and forums help you learn these tools.

Practical Experience

What are Internship Opportunities for an Interior Designer?

Internship opportunities for an interior designer can provide ideal hands-on experience and networking opportunities in the field.

Here are some potential internship options for interior designers:

  • Interior Design Firms: Many interior design firms offer internships to students or recent graduates. These internships can involve working on real projects, assisting senior designers, creating design concepts, and learning about the day-to-day operations of a design firm.
  • Architecture Firms: Interior designers often collaborate with architects on projects. Interning at an architecture firm can provide exposure to the architectural aspects and enhance your interior designer skills in spatial planning and building codes.
  • Furniture and Home Decor Retailers: Some home decor and furniture retailers offer internships for interior designers. This can be an opportunity to learn about product selection, merchandising, and how to work with clients in a retail setting.
  • Hospitality Industry: Interning with hotels, restaurants, or hospitality management companies can be a great way to gain experience in commercial interior design. You may work on hotel room designs, restaurant layouts, and other hospitality-related projects.
  • Real Estate Development Companies: Real estate developers often require interior designers to stage model homes or design common areas in residential or commercial properties. Interning with such companies can expose you to the real estate side of interior design.
  • Event Planning Companies: Event planning firms often require the services of interior designers to create event spaces. Interning with event planning companies can provide experience designing temporary spaces for events, weddings, conferences, and more.

To find internship opportunities, you can:

  • Check with your college or university’s career services office.
  • Explore online job boards and websites specific to interior design internships.
  • Be sure to network with professionals in the field through industry events, social media, and LinkedIn.
  • Contact local design firms or organizations directly to inquire about internship openings.
  • Create a portfolio showcasing your work and interior designer skills to make you more attractive to potential internship providers.
  • Remember that the availability of internships may vary by location and industry demand. Be proactive in your search and open to various experiences to gain a well-rounded understanding of interior design.

What Skills Will I Learn As An Interior Designer?

As an interior designer, you will develop many skills essential for creating functional, aesthetically pleasing, and safe interior spaces.

These skills include:

  • Creativity: Interior designers have a strong creative flair to envision and develop unique design concepts that meet their clients’ needs and preferences.
  • Space Planning: You’ll learn how to effectively utilize space, considering traffic flow, functionality, and accessibility in interior layouts.
  • Color Theory: Understanding the psychology of color and how to select and combine colors to create the desired mood and atmosphere is crucial.
  • Materials and Finishes: Knowledge of various materials (e.g., fabrics, flooring, wall coverings, and paint) and their properties helps you make informed choices for different design elements.
  • Furniture and Fixture Selection: Learning to choose appropriate furniture and fixtures that align with the design concept and meet functional requirements is a fundamental skill.
  • Lighting Design: Proper lighting can transform a space. Interior designers learn how to plan and implement lighting schemes to enhance aesthetics and functionality.
  • Budgeting and Project Management: Managing budgets, timelines, and logistics is critical to successfully delivering projects.
  • Client Communication: Strong communication skills are vital for understanding clients’ needs, presenting design concepts, and managing expectations throughout the project.
  • Problem Solving: Interior designers often encounter unexpected challenges during projects and must be adept at finding creative solutions.
  • Sustainable Design: As sustainability becomes essential, interior designers should be familiar with eco-friendly materials and practices.
  • Trend Awareness: Staying updated on design trends and industry innovations is essential for keeping your designs current and appealing to clients.
  • Presentation Skills: You’ll need to present your design concepts effectively through drawings, mood boards, and presentations to clients and stakeholders.
  • Collaboration: Interior designers often work with architects, contractors, and other professionals, so cooperation and teamwork are essential.

What is the Work-Life Balance of An Interior Designer?

The work-life balance of an interior designer varies based on several factors, including their specific job, the size of the firm or business, their client base, and their personal preferences.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Work Environment: Those in larger design firms may have more structured work hours, while freelancers may have greater flexibility but may also experience more variability in their workload.
  • Project Deadlines: Interior design projects often have specific deadlines, and designers may need to work extra hours to meet them. It can impact work-life balance, especially during the final stages of a project.
  • Client Expectations: Clients’ expectations and schedules can vary widely. Some clients may have urgent projects that require designers to work long hours, while others may have more flexible timelines.
  • Seasonal Variations: The workload for interior designers may vary seasonally. For example, there may be peak times around the holidays or spring when clients are more likely to undertake renovation projects.

To improve your work-life balance as an interior designer, you can consider the following strategies:

  • Plan and Prioritize: Use project management tools to plan your tasks and prioritize effectively.
  • Manage Client Expectations: Be transparent about project timelines and any potential delays.
  • Set Boundaries: Clearly define and communicate your working hours to clients and colleagues.
  • Delegate Tasks: If you have a team or support staff, delegate tasks to free up your time.

What’s the Career Outlook for Interior Designers?

The career outlook for an interior designer can vary depending on various factors, including location, specialization, and individual skills and experience. According to BLS, the employment of interior designers will increase by 4% from 2022 to 2032, with 9,000 job openings each year over the decade.

Interior Designer Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of an Interior Designer?

Interior designers have various job opportunities in multiple industries and settings.

Here are some of the common job opportunities for interior designers:

  • Real Estate Staging: Staging designers prepare homes and properties for sale, making them more appealing to potential buyers.
  • Sustainable or Green Designer: As sustainability becomes more critical, some interior designers specialize in creating eco-friendly interiors that use environmentally friendly materials and energy-efficient designs.
  • Furniture and Product Designer: Some interior designers venture into designing their own furniture or interior products sold to retailers or consumers.
  • Freelance or Self-Employed Designer: Many interior designers work independently or as freelancers, taking on various projects and clients. This provides flexibility but also requires strong business and marketing skills.
  • Teaching and Education: Experienced interior designers can pursue academic careers teaching design at colleges and universities.
  • Consulting: Interior designers with extensive experience may offer consulting services to clients or businesses looking for design advice and expertise.

What Type of Companies Hire an Interior Designer?

Interior designers are hired by a wide range of companies and organizations in various industries to help create aesthetically pleasing and functional interior spaces.

Here are some types of companies and businesses that commonly hire interior designers:

  • Residential Design Firms
  • Commercial Design Firms
  • Hospitality Industry
  • Real Estate Developers
  • Architectural Firms
  • Retailers
  • Event Planning and Exhibition Companies
  • Cruise Lines and Airlines
  • Real Estate Staging Companies
  • Film And TV Production

Should I become an Interior Designer?

In conclusion, the path to becoming an interior designer is filled with opportunities for creativity, versatility, and personal fulfillment. If you have a passion for transforming spaces, a keen eye for aesthetics, and a commitment to staying updated with the latest design trends and sustainable practices, then a career as an interior designer may be the perfect fit for you.

With the growing demand for their expertise and the potential for diverse work settings, interior design offers a rewarding journey for those who aspire to bring beauty, functionality, and sustainability into people’s lives through the art of design. So, if you find yourself asking, “Should I become an interior designer?” – remember that your journey in this dynamic field can lead to a fulfilling and prosperous career.

Careers Related to Interior Designer


Alyciah Beavers

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