Careers with an Interior Design Degree


Through a combination of practical experience and theory, an accredited interior design education (certificate, diploma or degree program) provides you with a foundation of knowledge, skills and competencies to begin a career in this field.


Although most interior design graduates tend to become residential, commercial or industrial interior design professionals, there are many other career paths you can choose to take, because of the skills and competencies you’ll gain as a result of your education.



More On What You Can Do with an Interior Design Degree

This careers guide exists to provide you with information on how an education in this field will benefit your career, regardless of what path you end up taking after graduation. Topics covered in this guide include:


• What you’ll learn as an interior design student

• What employable skills you’ll come away with

• What careers you can pursue

• What kind of employers to look for jobs with

• What kind of salary you can expect

• Tips for gaining experience and marketing yourself as a design professional


We’ve also included other helpful information, such as scholarships from our database specifically for interior design students, and job postings you can apply for to help you pay for school or to get your career started!



What Interior Design Programs Can Teach You

Accredited Interior Design programs aim to provide you with an education that will prepare you to be competent, skilled and knowledgeable design practitioners. Because of this, curricula must balance creative problem solving with theory, research, practical skills, and technology.


For the practical aspect of this education, some programs incorporate different hands-on learning opportunities than others. Some examples may include:


• Observational field trips

• Off-site tutorials

• Internship, co-op or practicum placements

• Interaction with industry mentors

• Design studio participation (school facilities)


Studying interior design allows you to gain an appreciation of the design fundamentals that form the foundation by which design is judged. Learning how to manipulate and apply the tools of design to meet client’s needs and goals while staying within an allotted budget are typically a focus within these programs.


Many programs also focus on sustainable design by integrating it throughout many subject areas, and emphasizing it in interior design studios.





Employable Skills You Can Learn

As a result of your education in this discipline, you should be armed with a skill set that is well-suited for careers in the field of interior design. Many of these skills are also transferrable to careers where interior design plays a role, but isn’t the lead.


For example, careers such as realtor, event planner, and exhibit designer involve project management, dealing with clients, and design aesthetics.


• Knowledge of future design trends in interior furnishings

• Ability to select appropriate interior furnishings and products

• Knowledge of elements and principles of design

• Ability to properly plan interior spaces

• Ability to assess the needs of clients, as well as their goals

• Ability to effectively obtain needs, wants and budget from client

• Ability to effectively communicate the design and any challenges it presents to the client

• Knowledge of sustainable design principles and materials

• Ability to dissect technical information

• An understanding of professional business practices

• Knowledge of how to work within budgetary and timeline restrictions

• Ability to manage multiple projects at once



Careers Directly Relevant to Interior Design

The specific skills set an interior design diploma, certificate or degree enables you to learn, can be effectively applied to the following careers (not a comprehensive list…there are many more out there, this is just what we've had the time to compile and write about!):


• Art Advisor

• Blogger

• Commercial Realtor

• Consumer Advocate

• Department Manager

• Entrepreneur

• Event Planner

• Exhibit Designer

• Furniture Designer

• Home Economist

• Interior Decorator

• Interior Design Consultant

• Interior Designer

• Painter

• Professional Organizer

• Realtor

• Restaurateur

• Retail Sales Associate

• Set Designer

• Sustainable Housing Policy Associate

• Visual Merchandiser

• Wallpaper Designer

• Wardrobe Supervisor

• Wedding Planner


Please Note: Some of the above listed careers may require additional education, experience and training. Click on careers you’re interested in to find out more about their specific requirements.



What Types of Employers Will Hire You?

The following types of organizations employ interior design graduates. Try looking for work with these types of organizations, either as a freelancer or as a permanent employee.


• Commercial, industrial and residential architectural and design studios

• Event planning companies

• Healthcare design studios

• Hospitality design studios

• Individual practice/self-employment (with enough experience)

• Institutional design studios

• Real estate development and resale firms

• Retail design studios

• Wholesale resource firms





Career Tip: Develop a Portfolio to Market Yourself

If you decide to pursue a career related to your education, it is strongly recommended that you develop and maintain a portfolio of your best and most recent work, as it can be extremely difficult to secure employment without one.


A good place to start the development of a portfolio is by doing creative work while you’re in school. The good news is, that as an interior design student, you will likely have plenty of chances to complete projects that will provide you with both school credit and items for your portfolio.


Whatever you do though, don't limit your portfolio to simply examples of mandatory assignments you had to complete for classes. The more examples of your own creative work you can display in your portfolio, the better.


Speaking to your instructors, and letting them know what your professional interests are, can lead to such opportunities. You can also actively pursue opportunities outside of school to volunteer your services, as this is a great way to hone your skills and add to your portfolio.



Gaining Career Experience as a Student

Pursuing a field placement opportunity (also known as an internship, practicum or co-op opportunity) relevant to interior design is a great way to gain valuable work experience while you’re still a student. These opportunities have many benefits, including:


• Meeting other with the same professional interests

• Networking with industry professionals

• Getting a taste of the career before you commit to it

• Helping you refine your career goals

• Possibly adding to your portfolio

• Getting your foot in the door with an employer

• Getting school credit


If you are thinking of pursuing a career directly related to your education, do your best to get work experience in the field before you graduate.


So how do you find such an opportunity? Well, as luck would have it, most interior design programs in Canada and the United States include a field placement as part of their program, and will likely introduce you to opportunities. 


If it is not an academic requirement, speak with your professors, other interior design department staff as well as your school’s guidance and career counselors to help you find a suitable opportunity



Salary of Graduates

The salary level you could earn as an interior design graduate can vary greatly. Primarily depending on what type of career you choose to pursue. For the purpose of simplicity, let’s assume you are planning to work as an interior designer. In this case, you may earn an inconsistent and fluctuating income, or you may earn a more stable and reliable income. It largely depends on what kind of employment structure you have.


For example, you may work as part-time or full-time employee of an organization, in which case you may earn a more consistent income, whereas working as a freelancer you may earn an income that is reflective of the amount of work you are able to secure.


Regardless of your employment structure, the amount of money you could earn may also be influenced by the following factors:


• Your level of education and experience

• Your level of aptitude and the quality of your portfolio

• What credentials you have

• The size and type of your employer/client

• The region in which you work


Salary - Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Interior Designers occupational group earn an average salary of $63,947 per year.


Salary - Canada: According to Service Canada, Canadians working as part of the Interior Designers occupational group earn an average salary of $29,008 per year.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Interior Designers occupational group is $47,600 per year.



Interior Design Degree Program Accreditation

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) provides the foundation for excellence in the interior design profession by setting standards for education and accrediting academic programs that meet those standards.


The Professional Standards set forth by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation are used to evaluate interior design programs that prepare students for entry-level interior design careers and position them for future professional growth.


If you haven’t yet registered for an interior design certificate, diploma or degree program and are planning to do so, make sure you are choosing a program that is CIDA accredited.






Relevant Scholarships

Search our database for scholarships that are specifically for students in an interior design program in Canada or the United States. It has plenty of highly relevant listings for this field, as well as scholarships that are relevant for any field of study.


Success Tip: Apply for any and all scholarships for which you qualify, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships in Canada and the United States that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants.



Relevant Professional Associations

To find out more about careers related to your interior design diploma or degree, consult the following professional association websites. They offer career-related information, and many have job boards that advertise job openings.



Interior Decor Resources Canada

Interior Designers of Canada


United States

American Society of Interior Designers

Interior Design Educators Council, Inc.

National Council of Interior Design Qualification



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