Interior Designers Overview

Many talented people are drawn to this career, creating a lot of competition for employment. Interior designers tend to work for small firms, on a contractual basis, or are completely self-employed. For entry-level positions, interior designers must have a bachelor’s or associate degree in interior design.

Nature of the Work for Interior Designers

Interior Designers

With the help of many disciplines, fashion designers study this profession to enhance the function, safety, and aesthetics of interior spaces. Interior designers work with different colors, textures, furniture, lighting, and space for a particular client’s wants and needs. Interior designers can work on interior spaces such as buildings, offices, airport terminals, theaters, shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, and private residences.

Traditionally, the focus of an interior designer has been on decorating. Though most interior designs are involved in decorating, many are also becoming involved in architectural detailing, such as built-in bookshelves or crown molding. Interior designers may also help to plan layouts for buildings undergoing renovations.

In order to perform correctly, interior designers must be able to read blueprints, understand building and fire codes, and know how to make space easy to use for those who are disabled.

A similar process is implemented for most interior designers. An interior designer’s first step is programming, where the interior designer usually meets face-to-face with the client to find out how the space will be used and what the client’s budget is.

After this process happens, the interior designer will formulate a design plan and estimated costs for the client. With the help of computer-aide design (CAD) software, it is easier to make corrections rather than making corrections by hand. The interior designer will work to specify materials needs such as furnishings, finishes, flooring, and artwork. Contractors may also be hired by interior designers to perform technical work such as plumbing, lighting, and wiring. The final process for an interior designer is to develop a timeline for the project, coordinate contractor work schedules, and make sure that the work is completed on schedule and to the client’s liking.

When assistants help interior designers carry out their plans or perform administrative work, interior designers will sometimes supervise these efforts. Interior designers running their own businesses may also spend time making new business contacts, attending business matters, and examining space needs and equipment.

The most popular areas of design that are growing more and more popular are ergonomic design which helps with posture and minimizes body strain, elder design which involves planning spaces for disabled and elderly people to move easily, and environment which focuses on chemical and hypoallergenic free furniture and carpets as well as energy efficient construction materials.

Interior designers working in large design firms will generally work normal hours in well lit and comfortable surroundings. Interior designers who freelance or work in smaller design firms will generally have to adjust their workday around their client’s needs. Interior designers who are self-employed and work as consultants usually work longer hours in smaller and more congested environments.

Interior designers can work in offices, studios, or homes and offices of the client. Many interior designers also must travel for client meetings, showroom visits and to manufacturing facilities.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Interior Designers

For entry-level positions, interior designers need an associate's degree or bachelor’s degree in interior design. Professional design schools, colleges, and universities usually offer 2 to 4 year programs. Interior designers who graduate from a 2-year or 3-year program will usually receive a certification or associates degree and can qualify to become an assistant to an interior designer.

Over 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design which mostly award degrees in interior design.

Once formal training is completed, interior designers can enter a 1-year to 3-year apprenticeship in design or architecture firms or in a store to gain experience before entering into the workplace.

Thanks to the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, a program called the Interior Design Experience Program is offered, which helps entry-level interior designers gain work experience by offering mentoring services to them as well as supervising their work.

Many states require interior designers to be licensed or registered. The exam is administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification and asks that students have at least 6 years of education and experience in interior design, 2 of which must be postsecondary education.

Interior designers familiar with CAD software as well as architecture and engineering are usually preferred by employers.

Other important characteristics for an interior designer are being creative, imaginative, and persistent and must be able to communicate their ideas visually, verbally, and in writing. A good business sense and sales experience is also important.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association will offer certifications in residential and bath design for those looking for such certifications.

In order for entry-level interior designers to advance, they must usually receive prior on-the-job training as well as 1 to 3 years of training. Interior designers working in large firms can advance to positions such as chief designer or design department head.

Other interior designers will open their own firms, specialize in one aspect of design, teach at design school, consult privately, or leave the occupation altogether.

Top 10 Most Popular Interior Design Schools

1. Interior Designers Institute (Newport Beach, California)
2. Harrington College of Design, Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
3. The Art Institute of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
4. Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, New York)
5. International Academy of Design and Technology (Multiple Campus Locations)
6. New York School of Interior Design (New York, New York)
7. The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles Los Angeles, California)
8. The New School (New York, New York)
9. Academy of Art University (San Francisco, California)
10. Sullivan College of Technology and Design (Louisville, Kentucky)

See All Interior Design Schools

Most Popular Online Interior Design Schools

1. Ashworth College - Online School
2. The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
3. Savannah College of Art and Design - Online School
4. Westwood College - Online

Employment and Job Outlook for Interior Designers

Number of People in Profession

46,010

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).

Employment for interior designers is expected to grow 19 percent. People interested in interior design and its benefits will create a demand for interior designers, such as companies looking to redesign their offices or homeowners. Due to the increase in demand for facilities that will accommodate the aging population, interior designers will be in demand to work on such facilities for the healthcare industry.

There will also be a demand for interior designers from businesses and the hospitality industry, such as hotels, resorts and restaurants.

Many interior designers choose to specialize in one design element, such as kitchen and bath design, which has become a growing demand in homes being remodeled. Interior designers will also be in demand to work with the latest technology to design home theaters, security systems, home spas or indoor gardens.

Since ergonomic design has gained its popularity with the growth in the elderly population and workplace safety requirements, many interior designers will be in demand to work on such projects. Those will allergies and asthma as well as those who are environmentally friendly will look to interior designers for help with environmental design.

Interior designers lacking creativity, perseverance and training will find it very difficult to find interior design jobs. Interior designers with formal training and experience will have more jobs prospects than those who do not.

Businesses will call on interior designers as the economy grows to help with design services. Since fluctuations in the economy exist, many design services deemed as luxury expenses may be affected.

Earnings and Salary for Interior Designers

Median annual wages for interior designers are $46,180. The middle 50 percent earn between $35,220 and $63,570. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $26,980, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $83,620.

Annual Salary for Interior Designers

On average, Interior Designers earn $46,180 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $26,980/yr $35,220/yr $63,570/yr $83,620/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook