Interior Designers

Here is an extensive career guide that elaborates on the career path of interior designers, the job outlook, salaries, qualifications required and much more.

Updated by Rakshitha.N on 1st October 2020

What do they do: Interior designers are observant and artistic professionals who develop, install, plan indoor and outdoor space to increase the functioning, efficiency, and aesthetics by choosing the right theme, color, lighting, decorative items, and other. 

Working environment: Interior designers work indoors in an office setting, make use of the complex designing software, and also travel to various locations to meet clients. 

How to become: To become an interior designer, you should earn a bachelor’s degree majoring in interior design or interior architecture. Also clearing the exam will help you become certified and gain a license. 

Salary offered: The salary offered to interior designers in 2020 is about $46,872 and can range between $37,172 and $51,403 on the yearly basis.

Career Outlook: According to BLS, the data analysis determines the job growth of interior designers during the period of 2018 to 2028 is about 4 percent which is due to the need for easy function workspace, need for renovation, and others. 

Similar careers: Being a qualified interior designer will open doors to various other opportunities and lead to career paths based on your interests and career goals.

Top Interior Designers Jobs

Government Interior Designers

Interior designers are hired for federal services where they usually design various government-owned-and-operated buildings by creating workspaces, public spaces to make them aesthetically pleasing and modern. The average salary offered for this profile on a yearly basis is about $81,100.

Corporate Interior Designers

Corporate designers are ones who are concerned with designing the interiors and professional workplaces for private companies. The work roles include meeting the safety codes, efficiency of employees, and design spaces with the inclusion of the company's brand or logo. The average salary offered for this profile is about $51,775.

Healthcare Interior Designer

Healthcare designers are responsible for designing the hospitals, clinics, wards, doctor's offices, and other health-centered buildings as per the patient’s comfort and medical staff’s efficiency. The average salary offered for this profile is about $70,108.

What do Interior Designers Do?

Interior designers are creative and artistic professionals who design functional, aesthetic space according to the client requirements which is attractive and pleasing. Also, the designers plan the spaces and arrange it with selective decorative items to match the theme and enhance the color and lighting. Usually, they develop alternative plans before executing and incorporate the details mentioned by clients. Their roles and responsibilities also include,

  • Note down the client requirements such as space, interests, and budget

  • Prepare design plans and develop alternatives

  • Analyze the layout and the workspace dimensions and to maintain accuracy and details in the designing process

  • Use of designing software to modify and prepare effective designs.

  • Be aware of the building codes and inspection regulations while designing.

  • Choose the right color, material, and element to enhance the design

  • Prepare plan layouts and incorporate smart systems by considering how people can use the space

  • Maintain the plan under budget by allocating the money efficiently on every aspect required

  • Complete the project within the specified timeline 

  • Oversee the working on installation, flooring, painting, to ensure the desired results

  • Collaborate with various teams such as civil engineers, mechanical engineers, construction managers, architects, and others to design functioning spaces

Interior designers often design using computer-aided design (CAD) software, freehand sketches or building information modeling (BIM) software and other technologies to improve the design. The roles may also depend on the specialization chosen, they are,

  • Corporate designers design professional workplaces including cabins, work tables, rooms, and other functional spaces to improve the efficiency and safety of the employees.

  • Kitchen and bath designers work towards modernizing and improving the kitchens and bathrooms by including cabinets, fixtures, appliances, plumbing, and electrical solutions for these rooms.

  • Sustainable designers are concerned with designing workspaces by improving energy and water efficiencies. Usage of environmentally friendly products such as bamboo and cork for floors helps in building spaces with sustainable practices in mind. This occupation requires you to have certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council.

  • Universal designers often design and renovate spaces according to specific requirements that can be utilized by all. 

Working Conditions of Interior Designers

Interior designers work in a balanced environment between indoor office settings as well as outdoors traveling to the client location. Traditionally, designers sketch the plan and layers on drafting tables while currently working with designing software with complex features and detailed visualization. The working conditions are detailed as follows,

  • Interior designers experience medium to a high level of social contact and interaction

  • They communicate with clients, co-workers, and assistants through telephone, e-mail, and in person.

  • Work as a part of a team or individually while designing.

  • Collaborate with other departments to come up with a feasible design

  • May experience situations to share the workspace with other workers.

  • There is no room error and accuracy plays an important role in designing

  • Should make effective decisions that could build a company, enhance client, vendor relationship.

  • Work on a fixed timeline to meet the deadlines of the projects

  • Work full-time and also part-time by freelancing

  • Work on a fixed schedule and also on evenings, holidays or weekends

How to Become an Interior Designer?

To become an interior designer, one must earn a bachelor’s degree which is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and Council for Interior Design Accreditation majoring in interior design or interior architecture. 

You can also aim at continuing education or becoming state-approved. To earn a license, you must clear the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam after gaining the amount of experience specified by the state requirements. To get employed in the organization of your case or to become self-employed one must build a great portfolio that portrays the skills, competency, and expertise in your work. 

Educational requirements for Interior Designers

The minimum requirements to become an interior designer are to gain a bachelor’s degree in interior design or interior architecture through any of the programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and Council for Interior Design Accreditation.

There are various degree levels designers can choose, they are,

An associate’s degree is a two years curriculum that offers coursework on modern architecture and design, color theory, history of building items, and other necessary concepts.

A bachelor’s degree is a 4 years program that includes coursework such as design theory, textile for interiors, drafting, design, 3D imaging, and space planning, the business of interior design, and others in the course of 120 credits. 

Interested students can also pursue post-secondary education which offers advanced courses to enhance your earning potential. The primary specializations include kitchen designing, bathroom designing, accessibility designing, historic resident consultant, healthcare, corporate interior designing, and others. Prospective students can also choose to take additional classes in interior design like drawing, and computer-aided design (CAD). 

Licenses and Certifications for Interior Designers

Every state in the United States has its own requirement to issue licenses for interior designers. The license helps you to work in public sectors and design government property however, the license for an entry-level job isn't necessary. The process to gain a license is to complete education, then clear the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam after gaining a minimum experience of 2 years in the field. The NCIDQ exam consists of IDFX, the IDPX, and the practicum exam sections where it covers topics such as Construction Standards Design Application, Project Coordination, Building Systems and Codes, Contract Administration, Project Coordination, and Professional Practice.

Certification: The certification for interior designers is optional and voluntary certifications can be gained in specialty areas such as environmental design. However, 

California requires a different exam which is conducted by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC). You are eligible for this exam after meeting the education requirements and gaining sufficient experience. 

Stand Out Skills for Interior Designers

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 and Artistic: 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 creativity, they innovate new designs and patterns while aiming towards their client satisfaction.

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

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

Top University Programs for Interior Designers

  • New York School of Interior Design

  • Savannah College of Art and Design

  • George Washington University

  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  • Parsons School of Design

  • Cleveland Institute of Art

  • Cornell University

  • Rhode Island School of Design

  • College for Creative Studies, Detroit

  • Pratt Institute

Interior Designers Salary

The median salary offered to interior designers in the United States is about $46,872 and can range between $37,172 and $51,403 on a yearly basis. The salary offered is usually based on factors such as education, certifications, additional skills, and experience gained. Some external factors also include the type of job such as full-time or part-time, the roles assigned, and others. The salaries offered to the highest skilled designers can go as high as about $96,470. 

Breaking down the salary offered,

  • 10th percentile: $28,340

  • 25th percentile: $37,172

  • 50th percentile (median): $46,872

  • 75th percentile: $51,403

  • 90th percentile: $55,528

To elaborate, the top industries and the median wage paid for the interior designer are listed below,

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services: $60,910

  • Specialized design services: $54,710

  • Wholesale trade: $53,870

  • Furniture stores: $47,340

Job Growth of Interior Designers

The job growth of interior designers as projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is about 4 percent over the period of 2018 to 2028 which is quite faster than the average growth of other occupations. With over 75,400 currently employed interior designers, the expected jobs to be created on the total by the end of 2028 is about 78,600. This means that there will be an addition of 3,300 jobs over the next 10 years. 

As most of the designers work as a specialized self-employed professional, they must meet the requirements of the clients to obtain more projects. Also, a part of them is hired by the construction industry where there is increased scope of sustainable designing which is environmentally friendly and easily accessible. Additionally, the demands are increasing due to the need for renovating homes, commercial buildings, and other facilities, such as hospitals, hotels, and schools

Interior designers are employed in a wide field of work where the largest hiring industries are figured as follows,

  • Specialized design services: 28%

  • Self-employed workers: 23%

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services; 18%

  • Furniture stores: 6%

  • Wholesale trade: 6%

Related Careers for Interior Designers

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 professional workspaces from small office settings to large scale corporations. They create workspaces keeping in mind safety, functionality, and efficiency. 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 expertise in designing 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 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 a vast knowledge of the variety of cabinets, fixtures, appliances, plumbing, electrical solution. The designers earn about $45,770 per year.

Sustainable designers

Sustainable designers focus on the skillful designing of environment-friendly spaces to reduce the negative impacts on the environment. Sustainable designs involve 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 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.