Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Bachelor|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||40,750|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.6%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||2,840|
- A bachelor's degree is needed in interior design or a related field such as fine art or architecture.
- Coursework in computer-aided design is an asset, as are business courses to help with budgeting duties.
- Many designers go to schools to earn master's degrees in the field.
What you study: Common study topics for interior designers include:
- Computer-aided design
- Art history
- Design history
- Design theory
- Architectural drawing
Briefly introduces the interior designing career. Produced for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
Your day begins in front of your computer. Whether you're checking your busy schedule, reading about the latest design news or generating computer-aided design (CAD) imagery for client presentations, you rely on technology. You may share your office with other designers or work on your own; about 30 percent of designers are self-employed.
As an interior designer, you work closely with architects, builders and clients to create an attractive and functional space. That means spending plenty of time meeting with all of them. If you're an industrial designer who specializes in health care facilities, your first meeting might involve a redesign of a hospital's outdated emergency waiting room. You will develop a presentation describing how the new design improves workflow and puts patients at ease. At your next meeting, you hope to win the contract with your designs.
If your specialty is commercial design, you might meet with a department store owner to define the scope of the location's planned expansion. Your input is vital to the client's feasibility studies and budget. Your expertise with space planning, work flow design and decor will help make the owner's visions a reality. After assessing the space and hearing what the client needs, you're sure you can integrate the expansion with the store's brand identity while keeping the location open during construction.
As a residential designer, your initial meeting could be with a client whose outmoded galley kitchen needs to grow. You'll walk through the current space and work with the client to define a more efficient work triangle, implement safety features and create a beautiful new space within the existing framework of the home. You may need to give special consideration to preserving a historic home's integrity or making the space more environmentally friendly.
After your initial meeting, you're headed to your office to work on the project's next phase: your presentation. Meanwhile, another project you've recently been awarded also needs your attention. To get the work started, you'll contact vendors to source the materials needed for counters and floors. Electricians, plumbers and drywall installation specialists are also on your list of contacts.
Now that you've gotten your current job moving, you're able to make good progress on your design for the new space. You're planning an animated walk-through for your client and have assembled textile and work surface samples to present. Once you land the new client, you'll be in charge of sourcing the materials and outlining a budget, so you'll keep these factors in mind when developing your design.
Certifications and Licensing
Certification for interior designers varies by state, but most require designers to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification examination. Visit the NCIDQ website for eligibility information. Interior designers who plan to specialize may opt for additional certification from trade associations or professional organizations; a certified kitchen and bath designer or lighting specialist, for example, can provide clients with additional expertise.
Full-time versus part-time:
Interior designers need flexibility in their schedules. Because so much of their work involves clients, they must be able to accommodate the clients' schedules. Weekend and after-office appointments are common. Although most designers work full-time, self-employed interior designers have more scheduling leeway and may work part-time.
Here are some of the top websites for researching a career in interior design:
- American Society of Interior Designers – With state of the industry reports, videos and an extensive learning library, the ASID website is an excellent first stop for prospective interior designers. Visit the Student Lounge section to find information on becoming an interior designer, resources on career development and applications for student competitions.
- International Interior Design Association – This organization provides an international network of designers and design students with educational materials. The IIDA absorbed the Institute of Business Designers in 1994 and maintains a focus on business design, but residential designers are also well represented. Qualifying students may find help from the IIDA to defray the cost of qualification exams. The forums and resume center are especially useful to prospective designers.
- National Council for Interior Design Qualification – This website is a wealth of information about the NCIDQ certification exam. Eligibility requirements, testing supplies and webinars help students prepare for the test and focus their career aspirations. The Interior Design Experience Program gives entry-level designers valuable guidance in building their professional portfolio within a mentored program.
- National Association of Schools of Art and Design – The NASAD site lists information about hundreds of accredited interior design schools. Students who are looking for a good educational fit will find resources to help them choose the right program for them. A search feature provides contact information and site links to accredited programs.