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What Does a Career in Interior Design Look Like?

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Students interested in creative, practical careers might enjoy interior design.

Interior designers use their skills and talent to design spaces that meet the needs of individuals and businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers make a median salary of $56,040 per year, and the field is projected to grow 4% between 2018 and 2028.

This guide covers important information for prospective interior designers, including how to become an interior designer, what interior design schools to consider, and answers to frequently asked questions.

What Do Interior Designer Do?

Interior designers improve indoor spaces by making them more functional, aesthetically pleasing, and safe for their clients. Specific job duties vary by position, but typical tasks include determining client requirements for a project, sketching design plans, choosing furnishings and materials, estimating project costs and timelines, and keeping remodels on track. Interior designers may also place orders for materials and oversee construction.

In addition to independent clients, interior designers often work with architects, construction laborers, and civil and mechanical engineers. They can work for themselves or for a larger design company.

Most interior designers enter the field with at least a bachelor's degree in interior design. Licensure requirements for interior designers vary by state. Some states require all interior designers to hold a license, while others allow unlicensed individuals to practice. Candidates with an interior design degree and two years of verified experience can pursue optional certification from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification to demonstrate their expertise.

Where Do Interior Designer Work?

Interior designers may work in specialized design services; architectural, engineering, and related services; and in wholesale trade. About 23% of interior designers own their own businesses. Interior designers may specialize in areas like corporate design, healthcare design, kitchen and bath design, or sustainable design.

Interior designers typically work in office settings and use specialized design software to create their plans. Interior design professionals also travel to client sites to create plans, style spaces, and oversee construction. Interior designers often adjust their schedules to meet client needs, and they may work overtime to meet deadlines.

Skills

The best interior designers typically display high levels of creativity and artistic ability, which allows them to create aesthetically pleasing, interesting designs. They also need excellent problem-solving, communication, and interpersonal skills in order to work effectively on projects with clients and professionals from other fields.

Interior design classes can help students build and refine their skills. Interior design courses typically explore topics like popular design software, drawing, construction fundamentals, and design trends. Many programs allow learners to study interior design online.

How Much Does an Interior Designer Make?

The BLS projects a 4% job growth rate for interior designers between 2018-2028. The BLS also reports a median annual salary of $56,040 for interior designers.

Salary and Job Growth for Interior Designer
Interior Designers
Salary $56,040
Job Growth (2018-2028) 4%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Highest Paying Cities for Interior Designers
City Salary
San Francisco, CA $64,517
Los Angeles, CA $57,535
New York, NY $57,089
Source: Payscale

Similar Careers

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use diverse techniques and materials to create art. Craft artists create functional pieces, like pottery and textiles, while fine artists usually focus more on aesthetics than function. They may create paintings, illustrations, or sculptures. Like interior designers, artists need creativity, artistic ability, and interpersonal skills.

Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents help clients buy and sell properties. Typical job duties include promoting properties, taking buyers to see properties, and preparing documents related to the sale of properties. Real estate agents must understand the real estate market in the area where they work. All states require real estate agents to hold a license. Real estate agents and interior designers both work closely with clients to achieve their goals.

Industrial Designers

These professionals design manufactured products that people use in their everyday lives, like toys and home appliances. Typical job duties include consulting with clients, researching how people use items, and using design and drafting software.

Why Become an Interior Designer?

Interior designers work with their clients to create useful and beautiful spaces. They help people feel more comfortable, safe, and inspired by their physical surroundings. Interior designers should be creative, artistic, and organized. They also need technical skills in computer-aided design and drafting.

Interior design clients can come from all walks of life, and designers must help all of them to design the interiors of their spaces, which can include residential homes, commercial spaces, healthcare centers, and professional workplaces.

Some interior designers have specialties, like making indoor spaces more sustainable or accessible. For example, there is a growing demand for interior designers who can design and renovate living spaces that meet the needs of our aging population.

How to Get Hired

Employers seek interior designers with relevant skills, experience, and education. Prospective interior designers should know how to use drafting and design software, understand construction principles, and demonstrate creativity and artistic talent. They should also be familiar with current interior design trends.

Students can get the skills they need by enrolling in interior design programs or completing interior design classes. Most interior designers hold at least a bachelor's degree. Interior design licensure typically requires a bachelor's degree and at least two years of experience.

Aspiring interior designers can improve their marketability by interning with or assisting a professional interior designer. They can also join a professional organization for interior designers, which often offer networking and job opportunities.

American Society of Interior Designers

A membership organization for interior design professionals, ASID offers career assistance, a design competition, design resources, and networking opportunities.

Interior Design Society

An independent membership organization, IDS is one of the largest organizations in the U.S. focused on residential interior design. Members have access to educational opportunities, local and virtual chapters, and an online member directory.

The Commercial Interior Design Association

IIDA hosts programs and events related to commercial interior design. Members have access to professional publications, professional discounts, and local chapters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is Interior Design Important?

Interior design enhances the beauty, functionality, and safety of private, public, and commercial spaces.

Is Interior Design a Stressful Job?

Some aspects of interior design can be stressful, like meeting deadlines, sticking to budgets, and collaborating with many different types of people. However, it can also be fun.

How Do I Get Started in Interior Design?

Most interior designers enter the field with a bachelor's degree at minimum. The degree does not need to be in interior design, but coursework in drawing, interior design, and computer-aided design software can help students prepare for an interior design career.

Is Interior Design a Good Career?

Interior design can be a lucrative, rewarding career for creative individuals who enjoy problem-solving and communicating with a variety of people.

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