Careers

Learn About Being an Interior Designer

What does an interior designer do?

An interior designer works with teams and clients to develop design solutions for rooms and buildings, researches materials, selects furniture and decor and coordinates all projects from start to finish. They also solve problems that might arise during design projects, such as those related to budgets, furniture types or client wishes. Additionally, an interior designer might do the following:

  • Draw, read and edit blueprints
  • Research building codes, regulations and standards
  • Select paint colors, lighting and other elements
  • Participate in client presentations
  • Work within specific budgets and schedules

Average Salary

Most interior designers work full-time for a company. Some work as freelancers and are paid per design project. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $58,484 per year
  • Some salaries range from $14,000 to $131,000 per year.

Interior designer requirements

There are several ways to become an interior designer, and the exact requirements depend on your current qualifications and experience. Most interior designers usually have a combination of the following:

Education

Interior designers usually need to obtain a bachelor’s degree. While students can get a bachelor’s degree in any field before pursuing interior design, it can be helpful to have a degree in interior design, especially if you are also seeking further credentials. 

Many schools offer classes in interior design, drawing and computer-aided design (CAD) that can be taken within various degree programs. A few colleges and universities offer interior design programs at the associate, bachelor, and master’s levels. These programs are often accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, or the National Kitchen and Bath Association. 

Training

Interior designers usually receive on-the-job training after they are hired at a firm. They will learn the firm’s procedures, hours, billing, samples, suppliers and more. The interior design industry is also one in which employees benefit from continuing education. The more job experience and training a designer has, the more they can advance in their career. It can be helpful for a designer to receive formal training on new computer software, building preservation and other related areas through a community college or similar institution. 

Certifications

No state in the U.S. requires an interior designer to be licensed. However, a few states require registration to work unsupervised in a commercial space. Some states also require that interior designers be certified or registered to sign and seal interior design documents. These documents are related to building permits and regulations. For this reason, it can be helpful to obtain certification, registration, or licensure within your state. Some certifications include:

  • National Council for Interior Design Qualification: This is the most common certification in states that require an interior designer to be certified. Most require several hours of interior design work experience and educational hours in interior design to take the exam. 

  • California Council for Interior Design Certification: This certification is required in California. To receive it, you must have education, experience and pass an exam.

Skills

Interior designers need both hard skills, such as technical design, and soft skills, like communication. Some skills are developed through education, while others are gained through on-the-job experience. To be a successful interior designer job candidate, work toward acquiring the following skills:

Proficiency in CAD software

Interior designers should be comfortable using computer-aided design programs. Some interior designers do freehand sketching, but these programs help them make accurate, printable and sharable designs for different types of spaces. Interior designers might also use building information modeling software that helps them design and visualize three-dimensional spaces. 

Technology and tools

Interior designers use digital photography, as well as instruments such as measuring tape, drafting scales and triangles. Some interior designers draw their own blueprints and need to be comfortable at a drafting table. Many interior designers also use various types of design software. These might include Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Archicad, Design Manager and DesignSmart. 

Visual awareness

In addition to using computer programs to visualize rooms and buildings, interior designers need to have a sense of proportion. They must be able to see a space in their mind, sketch it out on paper or a computer and then engineer the look of the space in real life. This visual or spatial awareness takes talent and practice.

Problem-solving skills

In any interior design position, you will work to solve various problems. A good interior designer knows how to work within a budget and on a timeline. They are adept at making quick changes and adapting to clients’ changing wants and needs. 

Interpersonal skills

These can help interior design professionals maintain a positive working environment. Interior designers often work on teams with architects, artists, engineers and construction professionals. This necessitates that the designer is a strong communicator. Additionally, interior designers may need to solicit clients and build relationships with contractors.

Interior designer work environment

Interior designers work in an array of environments. Some work for large companies, while others work from home. However, there are a few things that any interior designer can expect out of their work environment:

  • Interior designers often work at desks or tables. They can expect to sit for long periods.

  • Most interior designers regularly use computers and tablets that are loaded with CAD software and design programs.

  • Some interior designers spend time sketching designs on paper and examining textiles and other material samples in person. Their ideal work environments have plenty of space and natural light. 

  • Interior design jobs often necessitate travel. Designers travel to clients’ homes, businesses or other design sites. When traveling, designers may carry portfolios, samples, books and other heavy materials. 

  • Designers adjust their schedules to meet the needs of clients, which means they sometimes work in the evenings and on weekends. They are usually under pressure to meet deadlines. 

How to become an interior designer

If you are interested in becoming an interior designer, you can follow these steps: 

  1. Graduate high school so you have the educational base needed to pursue further education and interior design-related jobs. Instead of a high school diploma, you can obtain a GED (General Education Diploma). 

  2. Get a bachelor’s degree in interior design, liberal arts or another subject. Any of these programs will allow you to work in this field as long as you take classes in interior design, drawing and CAD. 

  3. Secure an internship or apprenticeship with an interior design studio, architecture firm or other arts-focused company. You can partner with your college or university career center or search for opportunities online. 

  4. Consider getting a certification in a specialty area such as environmental design, universal design, LEED, or kitchen and bath. These certifications can help a designer stand out in the job market.

  5. Get as much interior design experience as possible either through internships or jobs. You can take on pro bono projects or ask friends and family to be some of your first clients. These experiences will help you build a portfolio. 

  6. Build both a print and an online portfolio. Include high-quality photographs of your work, sketches or CAD designs. These portfolios will be shown to potential clients and hiring managers. You will want to highlight your best work. 

  7. Prepare a cover letter and resume. In your resume, be sure to include past work experiences, apprenticeships, internships, education and specific skills related to the position. You also can highlight applicable skills and certifications in the cover letter. 

Interior designer job description example

Harmony Design firm is hoping to hire an experienced, highly creative and detail-oriented interior designer for a new client. The designer will be responsible for leading a team to conceptualize, coordinate and develop various aspects of interior design. This position is accountable for project delivery within the scheduled timeframe and budget constraints. The successful candidate will have a sophisticated style with an eye for current trends, well-developed leadership skills, and excellent communication and presentation skills.

Related careers

Interior design is a specialized position, but there are also similar occupations for you to explore. Related careers include: