All About Careers in Interior Design

By Lillian Chiu , last updated November 21, 2011

A creative mind, great management skills and the ability to see potential in an empty space; these are the qualities of a successful career in interior designer. An interior designer is able to transform a space into an environment; a house into a home. A successful career in interior design also involves being able to meet deadlines and communicate effectively with others, whether it be clients, architects, contractors or engineers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for an interior designer was $44,950 in 2008. However, earnings can vary widely depending on one's specialty, years of experience, reputation, and type of employer.

What Kind of Training Do I Need?

Formal Training

In order to pursue a career in interior design, you need to have at least two years of post-secondary education. Your chance of employment is greater with a bachelor's degree. An associate's degree and other 2 or 3 year certifications will usually qualify you as an interior designer's assistant, while a bachelor's degree typically qualifies you for a formal design apprenticeship program upon graduation. An apprenticeship will normally last 1-3 years in which the apprentice learns under a expert interior designer before starting to work on their own. For the most part, this training takes place in large architecture or design firms, but there is also the option of working in furniture stores as well.

Technical Skills

As innovations in technology grow, the use of computer-aided design (CAD) software has increasingly replaced hand sketches. Proficient CAD skills are essential, especially for those looking to be hired by a firm. Additionally, employers prefer interior designers who have adequate knowledge of engineering and architecture basics. Being familiar with these disciplines will help you keep with building safety codes.


Some states issue licenses to interior designers. If applicable, the designer can take a state exam after 6 years of experience, including at least two years of educational training. Many states require continuing education in order to maintain the license.

Where Do I Have the Best Chance of Employment?

Although job growth in interior design is expected to be faster than average (BLS estimates a 18 percent growth from 2008 to 2018), the nature of the field is still competitive because there are so many talented individuals attracted to this career. Additionally, interior design is considered a luxury expense, and the job market fluctuates with the economy. Designers can give themselves an advantage by specializing in a particular field. Healthcare, ergonomics and green design are all expected to be popular fields in the near future. An aging baby-boomer population means an increased interest in elderly healthcare facilities. It's the designer's job to allocate the space in a way easily permits active transport of people in and out of the facility. It is also their goal to make the residents feel as comfortable as possible. This may include the use of ergonomics, which is focuses on design that specifically caters to the human body by reducing strain. An ergonomic chair, for instance, will help support one's back and help with good posture. As the world becomes more environmentally, conscious, interior designers who are familiar with green technology and materials are increasingly valued. Additionally, designers who specialize in a particular aspect of design such as kitchen and bath, may have a higher chance of employment.

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