Interior designers are responsible for creating aesthetically pleasing rooms, but their responsibilities may also extend to making indoor spaces more environmentally friendly, making buildings accessible to people with disabilities, figuring out ideal lighting and maximizing storage space. Because there are so many different areas of interior design, salaries can vary wildly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average interior design salary was $46,280 in May 2010, but the lowest 10% earned less than $26,380, while the top 10% earned more than $84,900.
Federal Government Jobs
The BLS found in 2012 that in general, the highest-paying employer of interior designers was the federal government with an average annual salary of $73,590. Jobs through the government may require interior designers to plan the layouts of government buildings to maximize safety, energy use, and the flow of people through the rooms. Designers are usually under pressure to stick to a strict timeline and will likely need to present detailed plans for interior spaces before carrying out design plans.
Specialized Design Firms
After the federal government, one of the highest-paying employers of interior designers were specialized design firms, with an annual mean wage of $54,090. These firms rank behind lessors, publishers, and real estate agencies for highest annual salaries for interior designers, but they are worth noting because they employ the majority of interior designers in the United States, with 16,250 positions. The top three most successful—and some of the highest paying-- interior design firms in the United States are Gensler, Jacobs, and HOK. Working for a large firm is a good way for interior designers to make more than the national average salary.
Elite Interior Designers
According to CNN Money, the top 5 percent of interior designers earn more than $142,558. One of the top earners is Joan Behnke, an interior designer who decorates the homes of billionaires on a regular basis. She works on contract rather than being employed by a firm, and she attributes her success to being able to work closely with her clients and make them feel like they are an important part of the design process.
How to Get a High Salary Interior Design Job
It takes more than just an interior design major to get one of the highest-paying jobs in the industry. As Joan Behnke suggests, interpersonal skills are important to achieving success as an interior designer, especially if you are working as a contractor who must regularly solicit clients. You also need to be detail-oriented, creative, good at addressing problems, such as construction delays or a shortage of resources, and very visually aware. As a recent college graduate, consider applying for entry-level and assistant interior design positions in order to develop your skill set and gain practical experience in the industry. These types of positions will allow you to move into higher paying positions as you develop your career.