Interior designers bring art, textures, lighting, furnishings and fixtures together in a way that make a home, office, business or public space more pleasing or functional. They work in every type of building, from airports and shopping malls to restaurants and high-rise office buildings, using furniture, colors, wall coverings and window treatments to help a space achieve its primary purpose. Increasingly, interior designers are taking a hands-on role in architectural details, including renovation and remodeling ideas.
Interior Design Prerequisites
Those interested in a career in interior design should:
- Familiarize themselves with the history of the profession, including trends that have come and gone
- Acquire strong sewing, measuring and tailoring skills
- Develop a deep working knowledge of color palettes, sketching and architectural details
These basic skills are not interior design education requirements, but are essential to the work and will help you decide if this is the right profession for you.
Interior Design Degrees
An associate's degree in interior design will introduce you to the basics -- spatial planning, furniture design, architecture and computer-aided design. With a two-year degree, graduates often can find work as an assistant to a licensed interior designer. This gives graduates important experience and opportunities to improve their portfolio.
A bachelor's degree allows graduates to work as an apprentice for a licensed interior designer or in a design firm, furniture store or architect's office. Apprenticeships can last from one to three years.
A master's degree can improve your chances of landing a job, according to some interior design schools.
In addition to these interior design education requirements, designers may also need:
- Licensure: Many state licenses require at least six years of both schooling and practical experience. The licensing test is administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, and is only given to applicants with at least two years of postsecondary schooling.
- Continuing education: Each state has its own requirements for this.
Many interior designers also earn special certifications, such as those offered by the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Memberships in associations, such as the American Society of Interior Designers, are often good steps for an interior designer as they build up their career.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), self-employment is common among interior designers. Some might work for small firms or find employment on a contract basis. Experienced designers who work with firms might advance to design department head, chief designer or other positions that put them in charge of up-and-coming designers. Some designers might branch off and open their own design firms.
Another option for experienced interior designers may be to teach in design schools. In this case, designers often continue to hold a small client base for private work and sometimes maintain a small firm to supplement classroom teachings for their students.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2013," Interior Designers, Sept. 19, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271025.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Interior Designers, Sept. 19, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/interior-designers.htm#tab-1
- Academy of Art: Public Information on graduation rates, http://www.academyart.edu/academics/interior_architecture/cida-public-information
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook," Sept. 19, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/interior-designers.htm
- National Kitchen and Bath Association, Sept. 19, 2015, https://www.nkba.org/About.aspx
- National Council for Interior Design Qualifications, Sept. 19, 2015, http://www.ncidqexam.org/
- American Society of Interior Designers, Sept. 19, 2015, https://www.google.com/search?q=%E2%80%A2%09American+Society+of+Interior+Designers&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8