Interior designers make indoor spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting essential and decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They must be able to draw, read, and edit blueprints. They also must be aware of building codes, inspection regulations, and other considerations, such as accessibility standards.

Duties

Interior designers typically do the following:

  • Search for and bid on new projects
  • Determine the client’s goals and requirements for the project
  • Consider how the space will be used and how people will move through the space
  • Sketch preliminary design plans, including electrical and partition layouts
  • Specify materials and furnishings, such as lighting, furniture, wall finishes, flooring, and plumbing fixtures
  • Create a timeline for the interior design project and estimate project costs
  • Place orders for materials and oversee the installation of the design elements
  • Oversee construction and coordinate with general building contractors to implement the plans and specifications for the project
  • Visit the site after the project is complete, to ensure that the client is satisfied

Interior designers work closely with architects, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, and construction laborers and helpers 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 may be freehand, most interior designers use computer-aided design (CAD) software for most of their drawings. Throughout the design process, interior designers often use building information modeling (BIM) software to create three-dimensional visualizations that include construction elements such as walls or roofs.

Many designers specialize in particular types of buildings, such as homes, hospitals, or hotels; specific rooms, such as bathrooms or kitchens; 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. These products may include information for construction and demolition, electrical layouts, and building permits. Interior designers may draft the preliminary design into documents ranging from simple sketches to construction schedules and attachments.

The following are examples of types of interior designers:

Corporate designers create interior designs for professional workplaces in a variety of settings, from small offices to large buildings. They focus on creating spaces that are efficient, functional, and safe for employees. In their designs, they may incorporate elements of a company’s brand.

Healthcare designers plan and renovate healthcare centers, clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and residential care facilities. They specialize in evidence-based design, which uses data and research in design decisionmaking to achieve positive results for patients, residents, and facilities.

Kitchen and bath designers specialize in kitchens and bathrooms and have expert knowledge of cabinet, fixture, appliance, plumbing, and electrical solutions for these rooms.

Sustainable designers suggest strategies to improve energy and water efficiencies and indoor air quality as well as environmentally sustainable 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 expertise in designing buildings and spaces with sustainable practices in mind.

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

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Work Environment

Interior designers held about 75,400 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of interior designers were as follows:

Specialized design services 28%
Self-employed workers 23
Architectural, engineering, and related services 18
Furniture stores 6
Wholesale trade 6

Most interior designers work in offices, but technology has changed the way many designers work. For example, interior designers now use software rather than drafting tables to create two- or three-dimensional images.

Interior designers also travel to clients’ design sites.

Work Schedules

Interior designers may need to adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines, including meeting with clients in the evening and on weekends.

Education and Training

Interior designers usually need a bachelor’s degree with a focus in interior design or interior architecture.

Education

Interior designers entering the occupation usually need a bachelor’s degree in any field. Coursework should include classes in interior design, drawing, and computer-aided design (CAD).

Programs in interior design are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. Applicants to these programs may need to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes that have programs in art and design. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredits about 180 professional-level (bachelor’s or master’s degree) interior design programs.

The National Kitchen & Bath Association accredits kitchen and bath design specialty programs (certificate, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree levels) in nearly 100 colleges and universities.

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 such work; however, only licensed designers may use the title “interior designer.” In still other states, both licensed and unlicensed designers may call themselves interior designers and do interior design work.

In states with laws restricting the use of the title ”interior designer,” only candidates who pass their state-approved exam, most commonly the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, may call themselves registered interior designers. Candidate eligibility for taking the NCIDQ exam includes having at least a bachelor’s degree in interior design and 2 years of full-time work experience.

California requires a different exam, administered by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC). To take this exam, eligible candidates must have a combination of education and experience.

Voluntary certification in an interior design specialty, such as environmental design, allows designers to demonstrate expertise in a particular area of the occupation. 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 of the NCIDQ licensing examination.

Personality and Interests

Interior designers typically have an interest in the Creating and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a interior designer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Interior designers should also possess the following specific 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 $56,040 in May 2019. 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 $31,970, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,470.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for interior designers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services $60,910
Specialized design services 54,710
Wholesale trade 53,870
Furniture stores 47,340

Interior designers may need to adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines, including meeting with clients in the evening and on weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of interior designers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Designers will be needed to respond to consumer expectations that the interiors of structures meet certain conditions, such as being environmentally friendly and easily accessible.

Although a small percentage of interior designers are directly employed in the construction industry, many interior designers depend heavily on that industry to generate new work projects for them.

In addition to demand created by new construction, demand for interior designers will also arise from the need to remodel and renovate existing homes, commercial buildings, and other facilities, such as hospitals, hotels, and schools. For example, interior designers will be needed to help accommodate the future living needs of an aging population, especially for people who choose to stay in their homes.

Job Prospects

Job prospects should be best in high-income areas, because wealthy clients are more likely than others to engage in remodeling and renovating their spaces. Keeping up to date with the newest design tools, such as three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) software, also will improve job prospects.

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 licensing, visit

National Council for Interior Design Qualification

California Council for Interior Design Certification

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

National Kitchen & Bath Association

 

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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