Interior Designer

Interior designers make interior spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They read blueprints and must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations.

Interest Area: 
Creating
Average Yearly Pay: 
$44950
Education Needed: 
Bachelor's Degree
Job Prospects: 
Competitive
Job Growth: 
19%

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Job Duties: 

Interior designers typically do the following:

  • Search for and bid on new projects
  • Determine the client’s goals and requirements of the project
  • Consider how the space will be used and how people will move through the space
  • Sketch preliminary design plans, including electrical layouts
  • Specify materials and furnishings, such as lighting, furniture, wall finishes, flooring, and plumbing fixtures
  • Prepare final plans, using computer applications
  • Create a timeline for the interior design project and estimate project costs
  • Place orders for materials and oversee installing the design elements
  • Visit after the project to ensure that the client is satisfied
  • Career Overview: 

    Interior designers make interior spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They read blueprints and must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations.                                     

    Duties

    Interior designers typically do the following:

    • Search for and bid on new projects
    • Determine the client’s goals and requirements of the project
    • Consider how the space will be used and how people will move through the space
    • Sketch preliminary design plans, including electrical layouts
    • Specify materials and furnishings, such as lighting, furniture, wall finishes, flooring, and plumbing fixtures
    • Prepare final plans, using computer applications
    • Create a timeline for the interior design project and estimate project costs
    • Place orders for materials and oversee installing the design elements
    • Visit after the project to ensure that the client is satisfied

    Interior designers work closely with architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, and builders, to determine how interior spaces will function, look, and be furnished. Interior designers read blueprints and must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations.

    Although some sketches or drawings may be freehand, most interior designers use computer-aided design (CAD) software for the majority of their drawings.

    Many designers specialize in a particular type of building (home, hospital, or hotel), a specific room (bathroom or kitchen), or a specific style. Some designers work for home furnishings stores, providing design services to help customers choose materials and furnishings.

    Some interior designers produce designs, plans, and drawings for construction and installation. This may include floor plans, electrical layouts, and plans needed for building permits. Interior designers may draft the preliminary design into documents that could be as simple as sketches or as inclusive as construction documents, with schedules and attachments.

    The following are examples of types of interior designers:

    Sustainable designers use strategies to improve energy and water efficiencies and indoor air quality, and they specify environmentally preferable products, such as bamboo and cork for floors. They may obtain certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. Such certification indicates that a building and its interior space was designed with the use of sustainable concepts.

    Universal designers renovate spaces, to make them more accessible. Often, these designs are used to renovate spaces for elderly people and people with special needs; however, universal designs can benefit anyone. For example, an entry without steps may be necessary for someone in a wheelchair, but it is also helpful for someone pushing a baby stroller.

    Kitchen and bath designers specialize in kitchens and bathrooms and have expert knowledge of the variety of cabinets, fixtures, appliances, plumbing, and electrical solutions for these rooms.

    Lighting designers focus on the effect of lighting for home, office, and public spaces. For example, lighting designers may work on stage productions, in gallery and museum spaces, and in healthcare facilities, to find appropriate light fixtures and lighting effects for each space.

    Work Environment: 

    Interior designers held about 54,900 jobs in 2012. Most interior designers work in clean, comfortable offices. About 25 percent of interior designers were self-employed in 2012. Technology has changed the way many designers work. For example, rather than using drafting tables, interior designers now use complex software to create 2-D or 3-D images.

    The industries that employed the most interior designers in 2012 were as follows:

    Specialized design services 30%
    Architectural, engineering, and related services 16
    Furniture stores 6
    Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 5
    Construction 4

    Work Schedules

    Most interior designers work full time. They may need to adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines, meeting with clients during evening and weekend hours, when necessary. Interior designers also travel to the clients’ design sites.

    Education and Training: 

    Interior designers usually need a bachelor’s degree with a focus on interior design.

    Education

    A bachelor’s degree is usually required, as are classes in interior design, drawing, and computer-aided design (CAD). A bachelor’s degree in any field is acceptable, and interior design programs are available at the associate’s-, bachelor’s-, and master’s-degree levels.

    The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredits more than 150 professional-level (bachelor’s or master’s degrees) interior design programs.

    The National Kitchen & Bath Association accredits kitchen and bath design specialty programs (certificate, associate’s, and bachelor’s degree level) in 45 colleges and universities.

    Applicants may be required to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability, for admission to interior design programs.

    Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

    Licensure requirements vary by state. In some states, only licensed designers may do interior design work. In other states, both licensed and unlicensed designers may do interior design work, however only licensed designers may use the title interior designer. Yet in other states, both licensed and unlicensed designers may call themselves interior designers and do interior design work.

    In states where laws restrict the use of the title “interior designer,” only those who pass their state-approved exam, most commonly the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, may call themselves registered interior designers. Qualifications to take the NCIDQ exam include a combination of education and experience. Typically, applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree in interior design, plus 2 years of experience.

    California requires a different exam, administered by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC). Qualifications to take the CCIDC exam include a combination of education and experience.

    Voluntary certification in an interior design specialty, such as kitchens and baths, allows interior designers to demonstrate expertise in a particular area of interior design. Interior designers often specialize, to distinguish the type of design work they do and to promote their expertise. Certifications usually are available through professional and trade associations and are independent from the NCIDQ licensing examination.

    Important Qualities

    Artistic ability. Interior designers use their sense of style, to develop designs that look great and are aesthetically pleasing.

    Creativity. Interior designers need to be imaginative in selecting furnishings and fabrics and in creating spaces that serve the client’s needs and fit the client’s lifestyle.

    Detail oriented. Interior designers need to be precise in measuring interior spaces and making drawings, so that furniture and furnishings will fit correctly and create the appropriate environment.

    Interpersonal skills. Interior designers need to be able to communicate effectively with clients and others. Much of their time is spent soliciting new clients and new work and collaborating with other designers, engineers, and general building contractors on ongoing projects.

    Problem-solving skills. Interior designers must address challenges, such as construction delays and the high cost or sudden unavailability of selected materials, while keeping the project on time and within budget.

    Visualization. Interior designers need a strong sense of proportion and visual awareness, to understand how pieces of a design will fit together to create the intended interior environment.

    Pay: 

    The median annual wage for interior designers was $47,600 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,670, and the top 10 percent earned more than $86,900.

    In May 2012, the median annual wages for interior designers in the top five industries in which these designers worked were as follows:

    Architectural, engineering, and related services $54,360
    Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 48,550
    Specialized design services 47,090
    Construction 44,320
    Furniture stores 39,930

    Most interior designers work full time. They may need to adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines, meeting with clients during evening and weekend hours, when necessary. Interior designers also travel to the clients’ design sites.

    Job Outlook: 

    Employment of interior designers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Designers will be needed to respond to consumer expectations that the interiors of homes and offices meet certain conditions, such as being environmentally friendly and more easily accessible.

    Although only about 4 percent of interior designers are directly employed in the construction industry, many interior designers are heavily dependent on the construction industry to generate new construction and renovation projects for them to work on. Overall employment in the construction industry is projected to grow over the projection period.

    Remodeling of large public spaces and facilities, such as hospitals, hotels, and schools, is often funded as part of a long-term project. Companies typically budget money over many years, so that they can afford remodeling efforts when necessary, regardless of economic conditions. In addition, as part of creating their corporate image, more companies are expected to take advantage of opportunities to use new furnishing and design concepts, to make their interior space easily identifiable.

    Employment of interior designers in specialized design services firms is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022. As interior designers focus on increasingly specialized design areas, there will be a greater need for them to collaborate with other designers and in other design-related fields.

    Job Prospects

    Job prospects should be better in high-income areas, because wealthy clients are more likely than others to engage in remodeling and renovating their homes.

    Interior designers who specialize, such as those who design kitchens, may benefit by becoming an expert in their particular area. By specializing in a unique area of design, interior designers can use their knowledge of products to better fulfill customer requests.

    For More Information: 

    For more information about interior designers, visit

    American Society of Interior Designers

    International Interior Design Association

    For more information on accredited college degree programs in interior design, visit

    National Association of Schools of Art and Design

    Council for Interior Design Accreditation

    For more information on the national licensure qualifying exam, visit

    National Council for Interior Design Qualification

    For more information on accredited kitchen and bath specialty programs in colleges and universities and voluntary certification programs in residential kitchen and bath design, visit

    National Kitchen & Bath Association