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How to Become an Interior Designer

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Let Your Style Shine Through Interior Design

Do you have a flair for working with color? Do you see the lines in architecture? Are you naturally creative? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you would most likely enjoy interior design. Interior designers can schedule their own appointments, so you can work the hours you wish and still have time to spend with your children and family.

Job Description

An interior designer makes spaces safe, functional and beautiful for homes and for businesses of all types. You select lighting, furniture, flooring and all decorative items, such as window treatments, throw pillows and rugs.

Interior designers need to be able to read blueprints, must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations and must be able to incorporate universal accessibility standards.

A project from start to finish includes bidding on the project, determining what the client wants to do with the space, how the space will be used and how people will move through it. You’ll make a preliminary sketch to show the client your ideas and choose the items for the space to decorate it. You'll need to set a date to start and finish the project, order the materials and oversee the construction. After the project is complete, you'll inspect it to make certain it's complete and correct so the client is satisfied.

Education Requirements

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require an associate degree to take the design certification test. Even if your state doesn’t require it, it’s best to get the education and your certification to prove to prospective clients that you're capable.

The smart move is to get a bachelor’s degree in interior design from a college accredited by the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER). You should take computer-aided design (CAD) courses to enable your designs to come to life for your clients. Applying for internships while completing your courses can lead to a future job.

After you get your degree, contact the state regulatory board for state-by-state requirements. You can find this information on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) website. After taking your degree, you'll need a year or two of work experience before taking the NCIDQ exam. Even if your state doesn’t require it, take the exam. It's a prerequisite for licensing. Professional organizations will require a passing grade on the exam before accepting you for their projects, which are many times larger and pay more.

Industry

The majority of interior designers (31 percent) work in specialized design services. Self-employed workers make up about 19 percent of the workforce. Architectural and engineering accounts for 16 percent, while 7 percent work in furniture stores and 5 percent work in wholesale trade.

As a self-employed interior designer, you'll have freedom to work around your personal schedule and still have family time. You can work in a home office and make trips to your client’s homes or businesses to access the space. In home interior design, you may need to see them after normal work hours or on weekends when they're at home.

Years of Experience

Interior designers make a median salary of $45,918 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This works out to $19.47 per hour. The median salary means that half of the employees in this field earn more and half earn less. The lowest 10 percent earn $32,000 per year and the highest 10 percent earn $66,000 per year.

As usual, pay rates are influenced by years of experience. Interior designers earn a good wage when they're first starting their careers, but the salary increases as you gain experience. Here is a projection of the reported median annual salaries for various experience levels:

  • 0-5 years: $41,655
  • 5-10 years: $50,814
  • 10-20 years: $55,670
  • Over 20 years: $59, 977

Job Growth Trend

Interior designer employment is projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to experience a 5 percent growth rate over the next decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Many interior designers work in the construction industry and depend on them for new projects. Demand for interior designers is rising because of new construction, remodeling and renovation of existing homes, businesses and other buildings such as hospitals, schools and hotels.

The outlook for this profession is good as baby boomers age and more people choose to stay in their homes as they age. Homes may need to be redesigned to accommodate people of an aging population for accessibility.