How to Become an Interior Designer

This article provides in-depth information into What is an Interior Designer? What Interior Designer do? Degrees for Interior Designer, Steps to become Interior Designer and much more.


What does an Interior designer do?

Interior designers are artistic professionals who work with a combination of business handling and creative vision to design indoor, outdoor and living spaces by interacting with the clients. They are specialized in particular fields such as green spaces, home decor and corporate workspaces by choosing the right color patterns, lighting and materials.

On the basic level, they are responsible to create spaces but some duties of an interior designer include,

  • Conceptualize the client’s requirement

  • Prepare sketches of the design plans

  • Estimate the budget required to complete the project

  • Set a timeline to complete the interior design projects

  • Outline the recourse and materials required to execute the plan

  • Choose the right color, material, design to complement the project

  • Prepare blueprints of design and edit it

  • Use technology and computer softwares to enhance the designing process

  • Inspect the design to make sure they align with the client goals.

Interior designer’s salaries

According to the Bureau of Labour statistics, in 2020 the average salary offered to an interior designer is about $46,551 annually and it typically ranges between $36,911 to $51,048. The salary earned depends on the education, certification, period of experience and additional experience.

Job growth

The employment opportunities for an interior designer is projected to grow about 4 percent during the period of 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average growth of other jobs.

The career opportunities develop as the designer responds to the customer expectations and also create spaces that can be easily navigated. There is scope for environment friendly designing of spaces at home and office workspaces.

Steps to become an Interior designer

An interior designer is responsible of creating the attractive spaces with an aesthetic vision, the steps to pursue your career in this profession are,

Step 1- Earn a Bachelor’s degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree is considered as the minimum requirement to start your career. There is no specific field you can choose for this but you could choose the coursework in interior designing such as the drawing, computer-aided design (CAD).

After completing the bachelor's degree, you could also choose the other degree levels accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design(NASAD) and Council for Interior Design Accreditation.

Step 2- Pass the NCIDQ Exam

According to the state requirements you require a licensure to work as interior designers. Hence you must clear the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam approved by the state. The requirements to take up this exam are having a bachelor's degree and a minimum of two years of work experience.

Step 3- Gain experience

You could find it easier to get employed with your practical experience. You could start working at a small business and Non-Profit organizations to develop skills and gain experience.

You could also serve at a local center or even design for your own homes which can fetch you better results in the long run.

Step 4- Build a Portfolio

You must now create a portfolio to represent your work. Make sure to take high quality photographs of  the work you designed to allow clients to focus on your potential and present yourself as a creative and well organised professional. This could also include your sketches, your ideas on the wide variety of projects.

We recommend you to have your portfolio on the line media as well to increase your network and credibility.

Step 5- Continue education

After obtaining the license and certification as an interior education, you could advance your career by pursuing the other degree level. The master's degree helps in enhancing the skills and gaining in-depth knowledge on the subjects. You could also choose to specialize in specific fields such as sustainable design, spatial theory, corporate interior design and designing historic spaces. 

The tip we give you is to attend as many workshops, conferences and summits which are hosted by the International Interior Design Association  and the American Society of Interior Designers and the Interior Design Society to increase your marketability.

Degree levels for Interior designers

There are different degree levels to help you pursue your career with an array of courses provided. Read below to get a clear idea on the different degree levels available.

Associate’s degree

The associates degree in a two year program which offers 60 credit hours to the students to gain the basic education required to start off the career soon. It acts as a stepping stone to the bachelor's degree with easy transfer of credits. The first year of the program focuses on the introduction to design and fundamentals in drawing and drafting. While the second year concentrates on the architectural lighting, color theory, and furniture history in addition to introductory business and marketing concepts.

Bachelor's degree

We know that the bachelor;s degree is the minimum requirement to become an interior designer, students learn the technical, business and aesthetic skills in the four year program. The program offers 120 to 160 credit hours where students can learn diverse courses such as drafting, design, 3D imaging, and space planning with the practical experience on project management, marketing, sales, and business development required for an entry-level job.

Masters degree

The master’s degree in interior designing is a two year course which gives the courses to specialise in a particular field of your interest. You could gain the benefits of enhanced researching skills, understanding the niche areas , analyse the scope of vast industry and stand out in the market of employment.

Doctoral degree

A PhD in interior design helps students to learn the artistic techniques and principles to the professional designing, equipping, planning, and furnishing of residential and commercial spaces in-depth. This degree fetches you jobs with higher positions in academic and administrative positions in higher education and research; government and education consultation practices.

Certification course

You could also choose the online certification program to become an interior designer. The online degrees are different from the traditional programs at colleges and universities. This gives you an opportunity to learn the courses sooner with a flexible study plan. You could complete your coursework while gaining experience concurrently.

Concentrations to be considered by interior designer

Academic concentrations: The interior designers learn a diverse course work to adapt themselves to overcome challenges and to design with respect to client requirements. Here are some courses listed at various degree levels,

Associate’s degree

The associates degree helps in giving the introductory knowledge on the history of designing concepts that help you pursue your career as an interior designer. They are,

Modern Architecture & Design

Course helps in understanding the evolution of modern architecture and design theories and stylic elements. Learning the trends and coping up with the ideologies of the well renowned designers in the market. 

Skills acquired:

  • Modernization of styles 

  • Knowledge on the design history and styles

  • Use the knowledge on past designs to create a new design for the present

  • Foundational knowledge in design history and different styles

History of building types

Understanding on the history of how spaces were built and their purpose including the designing of spaces at corporate spaces, museums, hotels, or government buildings.

Skills acquired:

  • Adapt the historical designing concepts to present

  • Recognise the evolution of spaces

  • Framework for understanding modernization of existing buildings

Drawing

Learn the various drawing techniques and tools you can potentially use to create the design.  Also the concepts of how to translate the visualisation of ideas into a real world solution(design), digit; drawing practices and tools.

Skills acquired:

  • Familiarity in drawing tools and techniques

  • Creating drawing drafts and multi designs according to client needs

  • Use technology and softwares to create accurate drawings.

Bachelor's degree

In the four year program students learn a diverse coursework which prepares students with the minimum education required to enter into the professional field,

Design Theory

The students get the basic knowledge on the literatures of leading designers such as William Morris, Claude Perault and their work. Learn on how these theories impact on contemporary designs and how they can be used in modern interior design.

Skills acquired:

  • Historical influence on the modern designing

  • Evolution of the design approaches to various projects

  • Understand how to renovate the existing spaces to create a better design to impact on the present.

Textile for interiors

This course to make you understand the selection of right fabric, how it can enhance the decorative space and also on how the various types of fabrics are produced.

Skills acquired:

  • Hands-one experience on the selection of fabric for a specific projects 

  • Estimation of yardage

  • Maintenance of fabric property

Business of Interior design

This gives an overview on the managerial and administrative skills to run the interior designing business. This includes project management,researching, solving problems, client meetings, preparing blueprint, negotiation.

Skills acquired:

  • Handle clients and manage the negotiation

  • Customer relationship management

  • Pitching the new ideas by conceptualising the client requirement

  • Interacting well with clients to visual their ideas  and requirements.

Masters degree

The master's degree helps in learning the detailed concepts of the courses you studied earlier. This is helpful for the one who wants to research, teach others at college or university. The courses are,

Residential Interior Design

The course focuses on learning to design spaces such as kitchen design, bathroom design and accessibility design

Skills acquired:

  • To works with a variety of clients to improve their homes

  • Understand the unique needs

  • Requirements for designing safe, warm, and inviting domestic spaces

Restoration and Preservation

Students learn on the landmark design, historic residential design and museum consultant concepts in this course.

Skills acquired:

  • To work with a wide spectrum of historic spaces

  • Gain knowledge of preservation protocols

  • Special measures to maintain the integrity of historic designations

Commercial Design

The course offers an understanding on creating commercial spaces such as healthcare facility design, corporate office design, government building design and other to attract the clients and people.

Skills acquired:

  • Gain knowledge of ergonomics

  • spatial development

  • Accessibility regulations

Doctoral degree:

The doctoral degree offers coursework that helps you to specialise and research on the topics of your interest. The courses offered are,

Design Methods

The course helps in understanding the development of design proposals, documenting the issues of the design process and the planning of spaces and drawing designs.

Skills acquired:

  • Solving problems by intervening

  • Designing and developing a standard designing process

Interior Design Systems and Practices

This course helps in understanding the usage of space and durability, designing the Architectural products and to learn the related codes and regulations.

Skills acquired:

  • Operating an interior design business

  • Issues related to living environments

  • Principles and elements of design

Design Planning and Analysis

This course details about the planning practices, implementing the ideologies design process and discovering and defining neighborhoods.

Skills acquired:

  • Accessible

  • Cost-Effective

  • Historic Preservation

Job concentrations

The certification and education you gain to become an Interior designer will also open doors to explore other career opportunities. They are,

Corporate designers:

The corporate designers are professionals who work on designing the professional workspaces from small office settings to large scale corporations. They create workspaces keeping in mind the safety, functional and efficient. They also design elements to reflect the company’s brand. The average earning of the corporate designer is about $69,891 per year.

Healthcare designers:

The health professionals are expertised in designing the hospital spaces such as clinics, doctors' offices, hospitals, and residential care facilities to help the patients get proper health care. The patient's experience is ensured to be good by renovating the health care centers.the average salary earned by the healthcare designers is about $50,000.

Kitchen and bath designers:

The kitchen and bath designers are trained to design the kitchen and bathroom in restaurants, homes, schools, hospitals by choosing the right color, texture, lighting and material to decorate the spaces. They have vast knowledge on the variety of cabinets, fixtures, appliances, plumbing, electrical solution. The designers earn about $45,770 per year.

Sustainable designers:

Sustainable designers focus on skillful designing of environment friendly spaces to reduce the negative impacts on the environment. Sustainable designs involve the renewable resource, connecting people with the natural environment. They may earn a certificate in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council which helps in representing design buildings and spaces.The salary of the sustainable designers ranges between $59,997 to $103,609.

Universal designers:

The universal designers are professionals who can adapt to design buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to people. 

The spaces designed can be accessed by all ages of people and usually means that the products can be used universally. 

Stand out skills required for an interior designer

The interior designer is required to possess a number of skills where they adopt them to design spaces and please the customers, hence the necessary skills to excel in this profession are,

Creativity: The interior designers are artistic professionals who require extraordinary creative skills and imaginary skills in choosing the right fabric, material, furnishing, lighting and visualizing these aspects together. Using the creativity, they innovate new designs and patterns while aiming towards their client satisfaction.

Detail oriented: Paying attention to detail is important, every component adds up to the total design. Every detail enhances interior spaces and blueprints you create.

Interpersonal skills: Interior designers must have effective communication skills and interact well with the clients, colleagues and collaborate well with other teams. To achieve good results you must have good written, verbal and visual communication skills. 

Problem-solving skills: They must be able to think in logical and analytical prospective to conceptualize their client’s needs and overcome challenges. The problem solving skills also include the optimisation of the cost and estimating the budget.

Visualization: Interior designers must have good imagination skills and visualise the design to understand the creating a better intended interior environment. Sensing the proportions and visual awareness helps in designing the spaces better.

Interior Designer Salaries

Interior Designer