How to Become an Interior Designer

What is an interior designer?

become an interior designerThis is the person who works closely with the contractors and builders in making the maximum usage of space available and then making that space look good by creating implements that are creative. The main aspect of being an interior designer is get the designs approved and materialized. They are the go-between their client and the contractor or builder. The interior designer decides what type of furniture and accessories and the type of material to be used within the budget. Once they have this planned out, they will show it to their clients to get their approval before they plan out and buy the material and furniture. If their client wants any changes made, then the interior designer will make them and show the new design with their changes. When the work is started on the space, which could be one room or an entire home or office space it is the interior designer’s job to oversee all the work that is being done to make sure it is being done correctly and according to what their client wants. It is amazing that with your creative mind you have the ability to transform an empty space into something spectacular.

It is important to know that an interior designer is not the same as an interior decorator. When you have the title of interior decorator, you would be someone who designs on the surface, which means that you would be designing the decoration aspect of a home or office by choosing accessories, wall art, color schemes, etc. This is also part of an interior designer, but it comes at a later stage. Being an interior designer, you are consulted when the interior space needs to be revamped.

Interior designer career information

If have the ability to think in an innovative way, have talent, and love to create then you have three things that are important to have when you embark on your interior designer career path. One method to get yourself started is to take a course from a reputable school. You can also be self-employed, doing rooms to show your artistic talents for friends and family. Afterwards, you can take a picture of the finished project and start your own portfolio to show perspective employers in the interior design field when you start looking for a job. Unless you are self-employed, you will start your career as a junior interior designer, and as you gain experience, you will start to move up into other positions until you are an interior designer, where you will most likely have others working under you.

There are some who are lucky enough to grab a top job in the field of interior design without having a college degree. To make a check in this field you need to work hard, be consistent in performance, have great communication skills, and lots of creativity. One important thing that you need to keep in mind is that “the client is always right” even if you feels something else would look better. You should also have an eye for detail along with your creative mind.

Being an interior designer is not just all about creating things. To make money, you need to be a “people person” because you will have to meet with potential clients and be able to understand their wants and needs and be able to produce it within the budget they have set up.

Reasons to be an interior designer

The reasons to have a career as an interior designer is because you:

  • Are very creative
  • Love to make something out of nothing
  • Know how to blend things together to come up with a unique area
  • Love challenges
  • Love to design things that make people happy
  • Love to work with people
  • Love to work hands-on with your projects
  • Are a logical thinker
  • Obsess about decorating details in your home, friend’s homes, and family homes
  • Are moving and arranging furniture incessantly
  • Have several sketchbooks of interior designer ideas of how you would do the kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.
  • Have friends who are constantly asking you for decorating ideas
  • Try to save every decorating dilemma such as that building in town that is a real eyesore but you see potential in the building and know just how and what you would do with it.
  • Know more colors than there are in the crayon box, what colors are analogous, which ones are complementary, and which ones are tertiary. You also know which colors look best together and which ones should never be put together and how colors can affect the mood of the area.
  • Like to refinish furniture.
  • Know your fabrics and materials.

Required skills to become an interior designer

In addition to being creative, there are other skills that you will need to have to become an interior designer.

  • You have to be competent in math, especially measuring because if you cannot measure accurately, then your designs will be off-kilter. Your math skills will also come in handy when you are trying to figure out an appropriate cost estimate to your client.
  • You have to comprehend how to use the Computer Aided Design Software (CAD)
  • You will have to have neat penmanship so the client can understand what you have written or made notes of on your design for them.
  • You will have to know how to either sketch the designs or be able to give their client a 3D image so they can visualize the space when it is finished.
  • You also need to be able to plan the electrical layouts of the furniture layout the client has chosen
  • Be able to make technical drawings for execution
  • You have to know how to order the supplies needed for the project and which designers will give you the best supplies for the best money.
  • You will have to be able to keep the books so you know how much is owed and how much is received each month. There is software to help you keep books so you will have to know how to use them appropriately or keep the books the old fashion way with ledgers showing accounts receivable, accounts payable, invoices, etc.
  • You will also have to know how to talk to contractors, so they understand just what they are supposed to be doing to execute the design
  • Know what type of materials you want the furniture made of, what color schemes you are going to use, the flooring options, light fixtures, countertops, and cabinets, etc. What exactly you will need to know depends on the room you are designing. You also have to be able to explain all of these things to your client when you present them with a minimum of 2 layouts.
  • You also have to be a supervisor and make sure the work is being done correctly and completed according to plans.
  • You need to be able to multi-task because you may have 2 or 3 projects going on at the same time.
  • Organized because if you have more than one project going on you will need to keep each interior design separate so they are not mixed up, and it goes to the wrong area. This includes the materials, furniture, accessories, etc.
  • Time management skills, which include knowing how to plan your consultations, so you are not late, how to work in office meetings, how to schedule appointments, so you are not so rushed. Also, when scheduling time for a consultation with the client allow extra time because there may be more changes that need to be made, questions asked, etc.
  • Networking skills, which are very important if you want to become a well-known interior designer. You should be able to speak to people, hand them your business card, and thank them for their time. Put ads in magazines and newspapers. Make sure that you leave a couple of your business cards with clients after their project is complete. At dinner or cocktail parties network because you never know who might be your next potential client.
  • You will need to be amenable with your time and work according to the client’s schedule. Most work full time, but it is very seldom a 9-5, Monday thru Friday type of job. You may have to operate evenings and weekends. Most interior designers work a hectic schedule.

How long does it take to become an interior designer?

Getting your bachelor’s degree and then getting work experience it can take from 6 to 8 years before you can be considered a qualified interior designer.

How to become an interior designer?

To become an interior designer and build a solid career you must have a bachelor’s degree from a school that is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. You have to go to one of these accredited schools in order to qualify for the licensing exam. During the 4 years that you attend school to get your bachelor’s degree the program will include:

  • Space planning
  • Budgeting
  • Technical drawings
  • Health and safety laws
  • Preparing 3D interior views
  • Preparing plans
  • Color psychology
  • Understanding colors
  • Preparation for bids on jobs
  • Adhering to fire codes
  • Use of lights
  • Project supervision
  • Application of electrical layouts, including planning
  • Intricacies of design

You will also be instructed how to make technical drawings on CAD software. In some cases, you may be taught to make interior views while using 3D software like 3DS-Max. You should also take an elective in design theory and communication. During your 4 years of college, you will start to develop a design portfolio if you have not already done so prior to college. You have to have one of these in order to do an internship.

Normally during those 4 years of college, there is a specific time that you will do an internship. With an accredited school, you may be placed with an industry profession who will help to teach you the tricks of the trade. During the internship, you will learn things that the school just cannot teach you. You can only learn them with practical experience. To obtain your license you have to have at least 6 years of experience and education combined to qualify to take the exam. The exam is conducted by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification. Once you have passed the exam and gotten your license to practice, you will be eligible to start your independent business or work under a professional interior designer anywhere in the U.S.

Interior Designer Schools

When studying to become an interior designer you can get a 2-year associate degree but it is advisable that you get your bachelor’s degree. Before selecting a college to attend make sure that they have been accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CDIA), which will enable you to take the national certification exam. This exam is offered by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification. Make sure that you chose a program that lines up with your career goal. The 2-year degree is enough to get you an interior designer assistant program, but if you plan to start as an entry-level designer, you will need a bachelor’s degree. The program should offer you training in CAD, engineering, and architectural basics. They should also offer their students formal apprentice programs or internships.

Some colleges that offer the 4-year bachelor program include:

  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Baylor University
  • Columbus College of Art and Design
  • Iowa State University
  • University of Kentucky
  • Fashion Institute of Technology
  • University of Arkansas
  • Texas Christian University
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • El Centro College

If you are just pursuing a 2-year associate degree, you can obtain that at Alexandria Technical and Community College.

Interior Designer Salary

What an interior designer makes depends on important factor—experience. The more experience you have, the bigger pay you will receive. If you are an autonomous worker, you will have to decide what you are going to charge your clients and it should be a reasonable figure. By reasonable this means that you are not going to overcharge the client, but you are still charging enough that you will see a profit and not a loss. When working for someone, they will set you up with an hourly wage, or you may receive a percentage of what the project costs after expenses are taken out. Expenses are something else you must remember to figure in what you are going to charge your client. On average, the starting salary is $25,000, but as you gain experience, it could go as high as $80,000 a year or more. As previously stated, it is your experience and work that will figure into what salary you make.

If you are working for an interior designer company, there may also be benefits included with your salary such as paid vacation and sick days, paid holidays, pension, 401K, life and health insurance, a car to drive while on the job, overtime pay, paid cell phone, and more. It all depends on the company that you are working for.

In the year 2016, the median hourly salary is $24.48 with a median yearly salary of $49,840.

Interior Designer Job outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the growth rate for a career as an interior designer is expected to be at least 13% between the years of 2012 and 2022. The largest growth was predicted for those working in specialized design companies like kitchen design. Those that are working in areas with high income are predicted to have the best prospects for a job.

Similar/related jobs

You can go into in both the commercial and residential sector and other sectors of the business many different careers.

  • Residential sector–a very popular career option is home designing that involves designing the entire apartment or home. It can also mean designing certain aspects of the home such as the master bedroom, children’s bedroom, living room, or kitchen. Home staging is another aspect of this sector and in this area, you are redesigning a home that is for sale so that it looks presentable to potential buyers. Many times people hire an interior designer to upgrade their home so they will get a higher price when it sells
  • Corporate sector—in this sector you would be working with designs for business places, banks, and offices. The professionals in these areas have to have their space designed in such a way that the room has a formal feel but should not look too stern and drab. You want to design the rooms so that the employees feel comfortable but still staying true to the principles of ergonomics in the furniture. If you work in this sector, you should have knowledge of electronic and telecommunication appliances because these two features play a big role in designing office space.
  • Healthcare sector—in this sector you would be designing hospitals, doctor and dentist offices, nursing centers, assisted living centers, and other healthcare facilities. To get a job in this sector, you will need to hold a specialization along with excellent knowledge of the health care field. It is not a small task to design a hospital because of the areas that you must design such as surgical rooms, patient’s rooms, laboratories, etc. You also have to take into consideration all the state-of-art equipment that you have to work with. You will also require to make sure that the facility that you are doing the interior design for – all sectors of it, actually – is accessible to all patients, and staff.
  • Hospitality sector—in this sector you would be designing the interiors of convention centers, hotels, restaurants, banquet halls, cafes, health clubs, and more. In this field, you can always get a wide scope for creativity because it caters to a bigger audience. You have to make sure that what you are designing offers comfort, functionality, and esthetics. You will be making purchases on a large scale.
  • Retail sectors—in this sector you will have the opportunity to design commercial spaces, arcades, art galleries, shopping malls, exhibition centers, and more. This is also another area where you can make full use of your creativity along with their imagination. You must also have expert knowledge of the infrastructure of the buildings before you can design and plan the interiors.
  • Interior design assistant—you would be an employee of an interior design firm or the interior designer. You would provide support services to your employer, you may also travel with them, take notes during the consultation, gathering information about job sites, measure spaces, work with the venders where their employer buys their supplies, placing custom orders and more. Some will use this position as a part of their training so they can gain valuable experience that can be used to obtain their license to become an interior designer.

Two upcoming niches are Feng Shui Interior Designing, Green Interior Designing, and In-store Interior Designers.

Conclusion about the career

Yes, it can take many years to become an interior designer, but it is worth it, especially to attend college and get your bachelor’s degree. You will learn so much during your college years, and you have an internship. It is possible that the place where you do your internship will love your work and will choose you as a full-time employee after you finish your internship, graduate, and get your license. It is a challenging field that will make great use of your imagination and creative mind. If you are self-employed, you can have the opportunity to accept only the jobs that you desire to work on and be able to take a vacation when you have no clients or just need a break.