fbpx

How to Become an Interior Designer in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

Degree Finder
BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Interior designers transform dull impractical rooms into lively, functional spaces for various purposes. An interior designer is sometimes known as an interior architect. These professionals design living spaces and work on renovation and structural design projects. They have specialized knowledge of furnishings, finishes, materials, construction systems, and building codes to help clients create their dream home or business premises design.

If you’re an aspiring interior designer, you may be wondering which type of degree program to choose. Interior design is an exciting and diverse career and is perfect for anyone who’s creative, organized, and has an eye for detail. After graduating, you may decide to become a freelance interior designer or get an interior design job with an employer.

Let’s look at how to become an interior designer. We’ll provide details about degree courses, salary expectations, and job outlook.

Steps to becoming an interior designer

Interior design school can be fun as you’ll be able to get creative and explore a wide range of interior design subjects. Programs can be intense, and it takes hard work and dedication to become an interior designer. To be an exceptional interior designer, you’ll need to possess strong creative skills and a good eye for color. Interior designers are often considered Jacks of all trades as they study a diverse range of subjects from structural architect to phycology.

How do you know if you should be an interior designer?

The first step to becoming an interior designer is to find out what the career involves and decide whether you have the right aptitude for the job. Interior designers must have a natural intuition about space and an understanding of colors.

If you naturally have these skills, you may be an excellent candidate to study interior design. However, as an interior design student, you can also build on your skills and learn new ones to create a strong foundation that will help you succeed as a designer.

A knack for design

A prospective Interior Designer requires an interest in architecture, arrangement, textiles, and a flair for color. Designers have a keen eye for detail and can create balance and harmony in a room.

Interior designer or interior decoration?

It’s also worth noting that a career in interior decorating or a job as an interior design assistant isn’t the same as interior design. If you’ve received many compliments on your design skills, placement of home décor, or are often asked your opinion about furniture choice, these skills alone won’t necessarily make you a good interior designer. If you’d rather be more hands-on with decorating, you may like to become an interior decorator or painter and decorator.

Technical skills

As well as design skills, interior designers need to have technical skills and knowledge about the structural integrity of buildings and local building codes and regulations. You’ll also learn about different materials and become familiar with interior design tools such as computer aided design (CAD) at university. Having an interest in furniture design or design history would also be beneficial.

Interior designers also study subjects such as ergonomics, spatial awareness and concepts, and psychology. You’ll need sufficient knowledge of perspective and be good at measuring and doing basic calculations.

Confidence

Part of the interior designer’s role is to deal with suppliers and clients, so good people skills and a confident demur is a must. You’ll need interpersonal skills as you’ll have to interact with various people from other interior designers to homeowners, builders, and architects. Many interior designers also deal with government agents.

Sometimes clients can be challenging to work with or are indecisive. Good interior designers can remain calm in stressful situations and have outstanding negotiation skills. You’ll also need good listening skills to pick up clues on the client’s tastes and personalities.

Multi-tasking 

Successful interior designers will be required to work on more than one project at a time. This requires multi-tasking as several clients, suppliers and consultants will need to be juggled, and work will have to be prioritized. Interior designers working on many projects will also need to be able to make multiple design decisions.

Salary 

It’s also worth noting that interior designers’ salaries aren’t always great. It can be a hard industry to get into, and starting salaries are low. Entry-level interior designers generally get paid about $42,380 annually. The amount you can make will depend on education, experience, where you live, and the design firm’s size.

Some interior designers are employed at furniture companies, and these are generally paid less than a designer working for an architectural firm. Experience and knowledge will increase the rate of pay for interior design professionals.

Other career options

If you decide that a career in interior designing isn’t for you, you may consider other creative fields. Jobs such as a graphic designer or interior architecture may suit your personality.

What courses should you take in high school if you want to be an interior designer?

The following high school classes may help you get a place on an interior design program.

Art class

Interior designers need to have an understanding of space and perspective. Taking a basic art or drawing class at high school can prepare you for being familiar with scale, perception, and space, as well as angles, proportion, and color.

Most interior design degree programs include drawing classes, as students need to be able to sketch realistically. It’s, therefore, a good idea to practice your drawing skills while in school and get a good foundation in art. Many interior designers present clients with hand-drawn room layouts, even although digital software programs are becoming more common.

Geometry classes

Taking geometry classes will allow you to become proficient in measuring and calculating lengths and volumes. This will be useful to the interior design discipline as you’ll have to calculate areas when planning a space. Having a basic knowledge of math is also vital as it will help you estimate the cost of materials for future design projects.

It’s also a good idea to have an understanding of proportion and scale. You’ll need to fit the correct size of furniture into a room so that it creates fluidity in the room and looks great.

Psychology

You may also like to take psychology classes in high school as interior designers require a basic understanding of color theory and how people react to colors, styles, shapes, and images. This knowledge helps them create the desired moods for the space as design and decoration have an effect on people’s emotions. While you will be taught psychological concepts related to designing in university, it’s a good idea to have a basic knowledge of psychology.

How can you improve your chances of admission into an interior design program?

As well as taking the above high school classes, you can improve your chances of getting accepted into design school by doing work experience and creating a portfolio.

Work experience

It’s essential to gain some experience as this will improve your university application. You may like to redecorate your own home or bedroom, going through the full interior design process and drawing plans, as you would for a client. This is a great way to start off your portfolio.

You may also apply for work experience at an interior design firm or ask to shadow a local interior designer. When looking for work experience, be passionate and persistent; competition is often high for placements, so you may need to write to a few different companies.

Portfolio

Creating a portfolio that stands out will help strengthen your design school application. You can ask your high school art teacher for advice about portfolio preparation and can include work you’ve done at school.

Create a portfolio you’re proud of and include some interior design work if you can. You can find templates and examples on the internet, which can be used as a starting point. Let your unique style and personality shine in your work.

It’s essential to work hard on your portfolio and put in the effort to create something that will stand out and positively reflect your abilities.

Keep a visual diary

It’s also a good idea to include a scrapbook with images related to design inspiration in your portfolio. This will show that you are interested in various styles and that you’re staying up to date with design trends.

Read design magazines

It would also strengthen your application if you were to read design magazines regularly. You may be asked about current design trends at your interview and will need to be able to discuss your inspirations. Understanding sustainable materials and wellbeing issues related to how a space affects people’s emotions is also crucial in all design fields.

You may like to subscribe to an online industry newsletter, follow designers on social media or buy magazines. This will help you develop a sense of the current trends and what people are looking for when designing their homes.

What steps are typically needed to become an interior designer?

If you’ve decided that a career as an interior designer is right for you, you’ll need to study towards a degree and gain work experience to get your first job. Here are the steps you’ll typically need to take to become a successful interior designer:

Earn a degree

It isn’t an absolute must to have formal education to become an interior designer; however, it would be beneficial. Most design firms only employ people who have studied a bachelor’s degree in Interior design. Alternatively, you could study computer-aided design and do an interior design major. Degrees are also available at other levels, ranging from an associate’s degree to a master’s degree or even a doctoral-level degree.

Become a certified interior designer 

Interior design certification varies depending on the state you live in, and in some states, you must get a license before you can start work. To gain certification, you’re required to sit and pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam (NCIDQ exam). To be eligible to sit this exam, you’ll need to have passed at least an associate degree and have gained two years of interior design experience.

Work on interior design projects

Many interior designers find it challenging to find employment when they first start out. It’s a good idea to continue working on your portfolio by offering your design services to friends and family. You may also be able to volunteer for a non-profit organization.

Build a portfolio

Ensure your portfolio is professional and contains high-quality photographs of your work. Whether you’re looking for a job with an interior design firm or are searching for freelance clients, a good quality portfolio is a must.

Continuing education

If you’re looking to further your education in interior design, there are a few certifications that you can study for. These will help you stand out in the job market and keep up to date with trends.

Several design institutions offer certifications that allows licensed designers to specialize. Subject areas include sustainable design, spatial awareness, business interior design, or designing historic spaces.

What to look for in an interior design college

Many colleges and universities across the states offer interior design programs. These types of degree programs are also provided at institutes specializing in art and design subjects.

About 300 interior design programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Approximately 150 professional-level courses across America have been approved by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). Interior design specialty programs at forty-five universities have been accredited by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

With all these courses to choose from, it can be challenging to decide which to apply for. When selecting a higher education establishment, you’ll want to do your research and find a school that meets your need and career aspirations. This is particularly important if you already know what area of interior design you want to specialize in. Many courses focus on commercial or residential interior design, and others incorporate both disciplines.

What do the best interior design colleges have in common?

It’s a good idea to look for a design school with a mixture of classroom-based learning, field trips, and work placements. Schools that send their students out to get work experience allow you to develop the skills employees are looking for and see what the job entails. You’ll also be more likely to get a job after graduating if you have work experience to back up your theory-based knowledge.

Try to find a design program that has a design-specific accreditation. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation is a professional body that approves good quality courses that employers recognize.

It’s also a good idea to look for employment rates when choosing a college or university. Good schools will have a high percentage of students achieving their dreams of becoming interior designers. Employment rates will provide you with an idea of which universities excel at preparing students for the job market.

What sort of interior design course curriculum should your school offer?

Before deciding which school to apply to, it’s a good idea to read the curriculums for various schools carefully. This will give you an idea of which subjects are studied and how much time is devoted to each area.

It would help if you also thought about whether you want to work on commercial or residential projects and whether you plan to work freelance or as part of a firm. By answering these questions and reading the curriculums, you’ll be able to find a course that suits your career goals.

Interior design is a multifaceted field, and it’s likely the degree program you choose will cover various topics such as design history, art, culture, and modern architecture. There will also be classes on drawing and color theory, design theory, environmental and sustainable design, and psychology.

Your course should also include the necessary technical skills needed for a residential interior designer, including math, drafting, building concepts and regulations, construction, and visual concepts.

Most interior design programs will also include business classes as many designers become self-employed or work freelance during their careers. Classes may involve presentation skills, law, marketing, and branding. The program may also require you to complete an internship or work experience project where you’ll be required to use all the skills you’ve learned to complete an interior design.

What to expect for an interior design degree

An interior design degree should cover everything you need to succeed as a designer. There are also many different specialties and avenues that you may like to explore when deciding what type of career you’d like.

Many interior designers work independently, and this gives them flexibility over their schedule and their life. A design firm or architectural company employs others.

Students can also choose to specialize in residential interior design or commercial design or work on restoration projects. There are many niches in these areas. For example, residential designers will work with clients to redesign their homes. Designers can choose to specialize in kitchen or bathroom design or work with disabled people to create homes that are well designed yet accessible.

Commercial designers are responsible for creating interiors for offices, shops, restaurants, and hotels. Some designers chose to specialize in designing healthcare facilities or work in government buildings.

If you’re interested in historic buildings, you may like to get into restoration interior designers, an exciting specialization that involves designing historical spaces. You’ll need to look for a degree program that includes preservation practices and historic building design if this field interests you. Alternatively, you can complete an additional citification after you graduate. Restoration interior designers work on designs for historic homes, landmarks and museums.

Whichever type of interior design you choose, you should expect to study a variety of subjects. Bachelor of arts degrees in interior design generally takes four years to complete. If you want to specialize in a particular area, you may decide to do further education after graduating.

How much does it cost to go to interior design school?

The cost of going to design school varies depending on which course you choose and where you study. Tuition fees vary widely from $6000 a year to as much as $60000 annually. Most out-of-state students studying for a bachelor’s degree will need to pay $33,000 a year for tuition fees, living expenses, and additional items such as books and stationery.

While this does sound expensive, there are many grants, scholarships, and loans available to students. Many people opt to reduce costs by staying with their parents and attending a public school in the state where they live.

It’s worth visiting the financial aid office of the university you’re planning to attend to inquire about scholarships or grants that you may be eligible for. Many students also work part-time to fund their further education.

How to find work as an interior designer

To find work as an interior designer after you graduate, you can send your resume and a link to an online portfolio to design firms or other businesses such as architects and furniture stores that employ interior designers. There are likely to be jobs in your local area online. You may also like to join an association, which will allow you to network with other professionals. You’ll be more likely to hear about jobs before they’re advertised. Alternatively, send your resume to design firms in your area on the off chance that they may have a job available soon.

Interior design is a competitive field, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed at finding a job straight away. You may like to continue building your portfolio by working for friends and family, taking or freelance work, or even starting your own business.

While you’re job hunting, it’s also a good idea to spend some time each day reading interior design blogs, following design professionals on social media, and looking at websites to keep up to date with design trends. You may also like to try and find a more senior designer to act as a mentor. This will help you stand out from other design candidates during the interview process.

Why is it important to create a portfolio for interior design clients?

A professional interior designer requires a portfolio to show clients, and this, along with the resume, will detail design projects. A portfolio can show that you have a previous track record of creating well designed spaces.

A portfolio should be well thought out and comprise designs in various styles; it should include a compilation of artwork and photos of the finished interior. It will help attract the target audience, whether the designer is a freelancer looking for a potential client or a recent graduate searching for employment opportunities.

Freelancing or self-employment

Self-employment is a popular option amongst interior designs, and many will either start their own interior design business or do some freelance work at some point in their careers.

Self-employment gives designers greater creative freedom and the ability to choose clients and the type of project they work on. Some challenges come with being self-employed, and it may be hard to source clients, especially when you first start. It may be a good idea to do additional business studies to learn marketing, branding, and financial skills.

Rather than starting their own business, many designers do freelance work for interior design firms. Some firms will send work out to freelance designers during busy periods, rather than take on extra staff. It may be worth contacting local design firms to see if there are any freelancing opportunities available.

Resources

Here are some great resources for anyone looking for a career as an interior designer. Some of these sites include job boards where the latest vacancies will be advertised:

The American Society of Interior Designers

America’s leading interior design society is committed to helping people achieve excellence in design. There’s lots of career advice on the website and information about events that can help with your design practice. Professional interior designers, students, and interior design educators can become members of the society.

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ)

Provides information about qualifications and advice about progressing you’re your interior design career. A great place to start if you’re looking to achieve an interior design qualification.

International Interior Design Association

The International Interior Design Association has an engaging blog about design trends and news which is regularly updated. There are also programs and events throughout the year. 

The Interior Design Society (IDS)

The IDS sight allows you to access virtual conferences, careers advice and resources. The site also has job listings where you’ll find world wide opportunities and internships. 

Conclusion

It takes time and dedication to become an interior design; while a degree isn’t compulsory in the industry, studying will give you a good foundation in special awareness, architectural structures, color theory, and building regulations, as well as home décor, installations, textiles and fixtures, and fittings.

You’ll also need to believe in yourself and be confident in your abilities if you’re to achieve success as an interior designer. There’s no such thing as an overnight success; getting the relevant degree and work experience and creating a winning portfolio will help you on your way to becoming an interior designer.

Find the program that’s right for you

Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

Degree Finder
BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Scroll to Top