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Colors, textures, patterns, form and function — these are elements an interior designer considers when creating a beautiful and safe design for a commercial or living space. Interior designers work with clients to determine the best possible use of space as well as how the space should function, look and feel. They create a plan and timeline for how to complete the design project on time and within budget.

Interior designers may use a simple sketch to convey their ideas to clients, architects and construction workers involved in a project — but most likely, computer-aided design (CAD) software or building information modeling (BIM) software is used to create 3-D visualizations of the design. They also incorporate their knowledge of building codes, accessibility standards and construction practices into their designs to achieve their clients' goals.

A Day in the Life of an Interior Designer

Interior design professionals may specialize in commercial projects such as restaurants or hospitals, renovating homes for individuals or focusing on particular rooms or a design style. Specialization may affect what a typical day looks like for a designer, but in general these are the types of tasks they manage:

  • Finding new clients and bidding on new projects
  • Consulting with clients about their goals and design preferences
  • Recommending materials and products such as lighting, flooring, furnishings and appliances
  • Creating a design plan and estimating costs
  • Calling vendors to research and order products
  • Coordinating product shipments and overseeing installation
  • Answering questions of people who come into a showroom or design room
  • Researching new items or materials for current or potential new projects

The day of an interior designer may be filled with emails, phone calls and deliveries, and it might also require working some early or late evening hours. Clients may stop in for scheduled consultations or to see patterns, colors and materials picked out for a room or to find out about progress and deadlines. Visits to a client's home may also be on the agenda in order to clarify needs or to oversee installations. When clients' items do arrive, interior designers thoroughly inspect them to make sure they are not damaged or different from what was ordered. Then items can be scheduled for delivery and set up in a client's home.

Important Characteristics for Interior Designers

People who enjoy working with colors, materials and lighting may be well-suited for this career. They should be comfortable being creative, but also intuitive enough to put themselves in the shoes of the client, understanding their particular wants and needs.

Since there is never just one interior design solution, interior designers should be able to visualize more than one alternative and go into a project knowing the vision or plan may need to change. Managing multiple projects adds a layer of complexity which makes being detail-oriented a valuable skill to acquire beyond what is learned in interior design classes.

Typical Steps for Becoming an Interior Designer

Here's a overview of what it takes to pursue an interior design career:

  • Complete a degree program. A bachelor's degree in interior design or another related field is typically needed, although a range of interior design programs are available from the associate degree level up to the master's. An associate degree could be a fit for someone who wants to pursue some coursework in the field while a master's degree could work for a person who already has a bachelor's degree in another area.

    Interior design programs can help students learn about colors and materials, drawing and computer-aided design (CAD). Students may want to look for a degree program accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design or the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, if they plan to seek licensure or certification afterward. Interior design degree programs are available under a variety of titles, such as:
    • Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design
    • Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design
    • Bachelor of Interior Design
    • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design
    • Bachelor of Science in Interior Design
    • Bachelors in Interior Architecture and Design
    • Master of Interior Design

  • Seek state certification, if required. Certification may be required in some states for interior designers. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) offers an exam that requires both education and experience for qualification. Passing the exam allows test-takers to call themselves registered interior designers. A different certifying exam, administered by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC), is required in California.
  • Obtain state licensure. Licensing requirements vary state by state. Some states only allowing licensed workers to do interior design work, while others allow both unlicensed designers and licensed interior designers to do work. Check with your state's board of certified interior designers for full details.

  • Find a job. Many interior designers work in specialized design services or for architectural, engineering and related services. Additionally, about one in four is self-employed, meaning that aspiring interior designers may be able to find or create different job opportunities for themselves.

  • Maintain certification. The NCIDQ requires that certification be renewed annually. This can be done by submitting a renewal fee and also completing continuing education requirements. More details are available on the NCIDQ website.

Sources:

  • A Day in the Life of an Interior Designer, Design Folly, http://poshsurfside.com/a-day-in-the-life-of-an-interior-designer, accessed October 2017
  • A Day in the Life of an Interior Designer, Stephanie Weitkamp Interiors, http://www.weitkampinteriordesign.com/day-life-interior-designer/, accessed October 2017
  • Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design, The New School, https://www.newschool.edu/parsons/aas-interior-design-programs/, accessed October 2017
  • Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design, Sam Houston State University, http://www.shsu.edu/programs/bachelor-degree-in-family-and-consumer-sciences-interior-design/, accessed October 2017
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, http://www.rmcad.edu/academics/interior-design, accessed October 2017
  • Certificate Renewal, Council for Interior Design Qualification, https://www.cidq.org/certificate-renewal, accessed October 2017
  • Details Report for Interior Designers, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/details/27-1025.00#Education, accessed October 2017
  • Interior Designers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/interior-designers.htm#tab-9
  • Masters Degree Interior Design, Harrington College of Design, http://www.harrington.edu/degree-programs/interior-design/master-of-interior-design, accessed October 2017

Interior Designer Skills

Below are the skills needed to be interior designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Critical Thinking44
Reading Comprehension43.88
Speaking44
Active Listening44
Service Orientation3.753.62

Interior Designer Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be interior designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Originality4.124
Near Vision44
Fluency of Ideas44
Oral Comprehension44
Written Comprehension44

Interior Designer Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be interior designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Design4.96.38
Building and Construction4.334.48
Customer and Personal Service4.15.14
English Language3.954.43
Administration and Management3.764.35

Interior Designer Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being interior designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Thinking Creatively4.865.52
Interacting With Computers4.673.81
Getting Information4.625.14
Drafting, Laying Out, and Specifying Technical Devices, Parts, and Equipment4.525.19
Making Decisions and Solving Problems4.384.71

Interior Designer Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being interior designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work StyleImportance
Attention to Detail4.9
Innovation4.52
Dependability4.48
Stress Tolerance4.43
Initiative4.38

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Interior Designer

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Interior Designer jobs , as of 2017

   
Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim3,580$72,490
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach2,200$53,370
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington2,040$65,780
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land1,450$59,850
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell1,430$52,880
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue1,350$60,030
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward1,290$68,210
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood880$50,630
San Diego-Carlsbad740$51,740
Columbus670$46,900

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Interior Designers

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to interior designers

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

Most Popular Industries for
Interior Designer

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

IndustryTotal EmploymentPercentAnnual Median Salary
Professional And Technical Services32,47061%$46,710
Furniture Stores6,84012%$39,450
Construction3,0805%N/A
Hardware And Garden Stores2,6705%$39,970
Durable Goods Wholesale2,4604%$45,020
Furniture1,0401%$43,750
Business Management9001%$53,320
Construction Trades5601%N/A
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