How to Become an Interior Designer

Home >> Careers With an Arts Degree >> Careers with an Interior Design Degree >> How To Become An Interior Designer

How to Become an Interior Designer: Career Path Guide

To become an interior designer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in a field related to interior design, or a closely related field. You can also get into this career if you have an equivalent combination of education and experience.


If you want to become an interior designer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for this field:


• You have a keen interest in colour, furnishings and décor

• You enjoy creative work that involves precision

• You have a strong sense of proportion and visual awareness

• You have excellent listening skills and are able to determine the needs of others

• You have skills in manual sketching and in using CAD software

• You enjoy advising customers and clients

• You enjoy work that involves unforeseen challenges

• You are willing to endure periods of limited success while building a portfolio, a client base, or finding stable employment


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an interior designer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become an Interior Designer

In order to become an interior designer, you typically need a bachelor's degree in interior design, or a closely related field.


Some employers may prefer to hire interior designers with a or master’s degree in a field related to interior design, as it offers a more comprehensive education, and better prepares the graduate to be a competent interior designer.


You can also become an interior designer with an associate's degree or diploma in interior design, provided you also have related work experience. 


Regardless of your major, classes relevant to becoming an interior designer include:


• 3D design

• Spatial design

• Colour theory and application

• Building construction

• Project management

• Green design

• Lighting

• Space planning

• Architectural history

• Interior architecture


You can also become an interior designer with little formal education, provided you have the equivalent in work experience, and your portfolio and resume show competence and skill in the areas listed above.




Interior Designer Job Description

Interior designers plan and supervise the design and decoration of the inside of new and existing buildings for residential, commercial and industrial clients. They plan the aesthetics and function of interiors for a virtually any type of building, including private homes, offices, hotels, restaurants and shops.


When designing an interior, a designer is concerned with making an interior space functional, safe and beautiful, while ensuring to operate within the client’s budgetary constraints.


Interior designers must read the property’s blueprints, and must be aware of any relevant building codes and inspection regulations when creating their designs. They must also choose designs, materials and accessories, which achieve the desired look and feel of the space.



Interior Designer Job Duties

The job duties of an interior designer can vary depending on their level of responsibility, their employment structure, and many other factors. In general however, interior designers are responsible for performing the following duties:


• Gain thorough understanding of the needs and goals of the client as well as their budgetary and timeline restrictions

• Estimate project costs and prepare budget

• Develop preliminary plans for design concepts and present to client for preliminary approval

• Develop hand sketches, as well as those prepared by computer aided design software

• Prepare working specifications for design related construction including materials, finishes, furnishings and accessories

• Coordinate the contractor bid process and award contracts

• Liaise with professional and technical consultants (such as engineers, architects, audiovisual consultants)

• Monitor construction and installation of furnishings, fixtures and accessories

• Oversee the construction process ensuring that project specifications are adhered to

• Maintain portfolio in order to showcase work and attract new clients



Who Creates Jobs for Interior Designers?

Interior Designers have a variety of employment options; they may be self-employed as a freelancer; owner of their own design studio; or a permanent employee of an organization. The employment path they choose largely depends on their personal preference, or practicality (such as whether or not they find suitable opportunities with employers, or whether there is a market for their work as a freelancer).


For example, some interior designers may choose to build a portfolio as a freelancer prior to looking for permanent work (as finding suitable permanent employment usually takes quite a strong portfolio), whereas others may choose to find permanent work prior to working as a freelancer or opening their own interior design studio.




Many interior designers are self-employed, which may be in the form of working as a freelancer to do individual projects for clients, or owning their own interior design studio. Self-employed interior designers typically contract their services to the following types of organizations:


• Architectural firms

• Interior design agencies

• Educational institutions, such as high schools, colleges and universities

• Healthcare facilities, such as hospitals

• Furniture manufacturers and dealers

• Hotels, resorts and restaurants

• Property management companies

• Contractors and homebuilders

• Real estate developers

• Private individuals

• Retail stores and chains


Working for Others


Interior designers may also work as in-house employees for a wide range of companies involved in designing and planning residential, commercial and industrial spaces, such as:


• Interior design and decorating studios

• Architectural firms

• Homebuilders

• Real estate developers

• Retail chains

• Furniture manufacturers and dealers

• Hotel, resort and restaurant chains

• Property management companies

• Large corporations 




Find Interior Designer Job Postings

Interior Designer Jobs - Canada


Interior Designer Jobs - United States




Certification Needed to Become an Interior Designer

The certification requirements for becoming an interior designer typically vary by region. In some states and provinces, only licensed designers may do interior design work. In other states and provinces however, both licensed and unlicensed designers may do interior design work, although only licensed designers may use the title Interior Designer.


Typical requirements for becoming certified or licensed as an interior designer include completion of an accredited degree program, or an equivalent of completed education and work experience, as well as successful completion of an exam.



Skills Needed to Become an Interior Designer

In order to become effective in a career as an interior designer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of creative, technical, analytical, marketing and business management skills. These skills are usually acquired through schoolwork, practice, career experience and natural ability.


• Strong sense of proportion and visual awareness

• Imaginative in selecting furnishings, fabrics and colours

• Understanding of how pieces of a design will fit together to create the intended interior environment

• Good spatial perception and the ability to visualize three dimensions from two-dimensional drawings

• Able to effectively read blueprints and architectural plans

• Freehand drawing skills

• Proficient in the use of computer-aided design (CAD) software

• Excellent sales ability

• An understanding of local building and safety regulations

• Knowledge of products, materials and architectural history

• Effective communication skills, for working with suppliers, contractors and clients

• Able to work out costs and keep to budgets

• Business and marketing skills, if self-employed



Characteristics of Successful Interior Designers

In order to enjoy performing the duties of an interior designer, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your job duties is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.


• A keen interest in home décor

• Able to work well with different personality types

• Comfortable selling people on ideas or products

• Able to either tolerate working for others, or the risks associated with starting a business

• Able to handle professional criticism that may be delivered without tact

• Willing to keep up with industry changes, such as manufacturers’ processes and new materials

• Enjoy doing creative work that involves precision

• Enjoy advising customers and clients

• Enjoy work that involves unforeseen challenges

• Enjoy the idea of a career with a wide variety of different tasks

• Willing to endure periods of limited success while building a portfolio, a client base, or finding stable employment





How to Build a Career as an Interior Designer

Once you've earned the necessary qualifications, there are a few different ways for you to begin your career as an interior designer. Aspiring designers can work as freelancers, start their own decorating company, work for a dedicated decorating and design company, or they can work as an in-house employee of an organization, such as a home builder.


No matter what path you choose, a great way to begin in the field of interior design is to volunteer your services to friends and family. This will give you valuable experience as well as the chance to develop your portfolio beyond what you have contributed to it as a result of school projects.


Developing and maintaining a portfolio is of utmost importance to a designer, as it serves as a visual resume. Ensure that your portfolio contains a variety of your best work. Your portfolio can also include letters of recommendation and design boards, as well as photos of interiors you have designed. Once you have your portfolio started, consider building a website; this is a great way to market your portfolio online.


Upon graduation, apply for a job within a company that hires designers, such as home builders, manufacturers of furniture and housewares, hotel and restaurant chains, furniture stores, home improvement stores, antiques dealers, housewares stores, etc., plus interior design and decorating firms.


If you are interested in pursuing self-employment or freelance work, you will need to develop a business plan that will outline your marketing strategies as well as your necessary funding, equipment, space and supplies, and suppliers.


One way to market your services is by networking with professionals who can refer business to you, such as real estate agents, architects, antiques dealers, art dealers, home renovators, and owners of businesses that sell home furnishings.


Depending on the niche you want to pursue, you can choose to market your service to such potential clients as home builders, new home buyers, home owners and professional couples. You can also choose to market to small businesses, such as advertising agencies, art galleries, bed and breakfasts, boutique stores, corporate head offices, hotels, law firms, restaurants, spas, and others.



What Kind of Interiors Can You Design?

The field of interior design applies to virtually any kind of space that is occupied by humans or animals. As an interior designer, you can choose to dabble, or specialize, in the design of any of the following types of spaces:


• Airport interiors

• Amusement and theme parks

• Apartments and condominiums

• Assisted living facilities

• Auditoriums and concert halls

• Bathrooms

• Closets and storage systems

• Corporate offices

• Cruise line and private watercraft

• Design for children

• Design for orthopedic disabilities

• Design for vision or hearing impairments

• Education and training centres

• Exhibits and convention facilities

• Government offices

• Greenhouses

• Health clubs and recreational facilities

• Historic preservation and rehabilitation

• Home entertainment centres

• Hospitals and healthcare facilities

• Hotels and resorts

• Interior design education

• Interior landscaping

• Kitchens

• Libraries

• Medical offices

• Model homes

• Modular and pre-fabricated homes

• Motels

• Museums

• Parks and recreational facilities

• Party and event design

• Pediatric units

• Photographic sets

• Prisons

• Private aircraft

• Psychiatric care facilities

• Public transportation vehicles and facilities

• Recreational vehicles

• Rehabilitation centres

• Residential interiors

• Restaurants (front of house)

• Restaurants (kitchen – back of house)

• Retail stores

• Schools

• Shopping centres

• Showrooms

• Spas and salons

• Stadiums and sports arenas

• Time-share properties

• Vacation homes



Other Design Career Opportunities

Not necessarily interested in designing spaces? That’s okay, as an interior designer, you can also choose to apply your knowledge and skills to other areas, such as the design of furniture, finishes, accessories, and graphics. These areas may include (but are not limited to):


• Building finishes

• Ceramic tile design

• Floor covering design

• Furniture design/ergonomics

• Graphic design

• Home hardware design

• Lighting design

• Plumbing fixtures design

• Product display design

• Textile design

• Wallcovering/wallpaper design

• Wall finishes/faux painting design



Interior Designer Jobs

Our job board below has "Interior Designer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Interior Designer Salary

The salary level of interior designers can vary greatly; some may earn an inconsistent and fluctuating income, while others may earn a more stable and reliable income. It largely depends on what kind of employment structure they have.


For example, some interior designers may work as part-time or full-time employees of an organization, in which case they may earn a more consistent income, whereas other interior designers may work as freelancers (contracting their illustrating services out to employers), in which case they may earn an income that is reflective of the amount of work they are able to secure.


Regardless of their employment structure, the amount of money they earn may also be influenced by the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of aptitude and the quality of their portfolio

• The size and type of their employer/client

• The region in which they work


Interior Designer 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.


Interior Designer 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.


Interior Designer 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.



Careers Similar to Interior Designer

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Interior Designer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.



Interior Decorator

Home Economist 

Visual Merchandiser

Web Designer



References: Interior Designer Career Information

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an interior designer.


Alberta Learning and Information Service website:

National Careers Service website:

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website:



Scholarships for Becoming an Interior Designer

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming an Interior Designer can be found on the following pages:


Clothing, Textiles and Material Culture Scholarships

Human Ecology Scholarships

Interior Design Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming an Interior Designer: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an Interior Designer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


Popular Degree Programs in Your Area