Become an Interior Designer

Interior designers are creative and technical problem solvers who work with their clients to develop design solutions that are safe, functional, and attractive. Combining aesthetic vision with practical skills and knowledge, interior designers impact the human experience, and transform lives.

 

 

Skills for Success

As part of a service profession, interior designers' success depends on their ability to satisfy clients. Thus, they must possess three important skill sets: creative and technical skills, interpersonal skills, and management skills:

  • Creative and Technical: Interior designers must be able to translate a client’s goals into a functional and attractive interior environment that supports the behaviors of the occupants. Successful interior design solutions respond to and coordinate with the building shell, protect the health and safety of the occupants, incorporate building codes, and include many other technical aspects. Attractive interior design solutions layer in the elements and principles of design leveraging materials, lighting, and furniture to shape the experience of the space. Interior designers follow a systematic process to achieve design solutions.
  • Interpersonal: Interior Designers must be comfortable meeting and collaborating with many kinds of people. Effective written, verbal, and visual communication skills are necessary to successfully work with clients, stakeholders, and collaborators. Because interior designers frequently work collaboratively with architects, contractors, and other service providers, designers need to be both good team leaders and good team players. They must be willing to negotiate and mediate when necessary to resolve problems.
  • Management: Interior designers must have excellent time and project management skills, since they frequently work on more than one project at a time, under demanding deadlines, while looking for new projects or clients. They must be able to develop and execute business plans in order to protect and grow their practices. They need to know how to market themselves to clients, to create informative and persuasive proposals and presentations, and to maintain good client relationships.

Pathway to Professionalism

The traditional path to becoming an interior designer is comprised of specific education, documented work experience, and examination. The NCIDQ Examination is the industry's recognized indicator of proficiency in interior design principles and an interior designer's commitment to the profession.

Education

For many, the interior design path begins with formal education. Selecting the appropriate education program can impact future career opportunities. Completing a degree, either an associate, bachelors, or masters (for those pursuing interior design as a second career path), is becoming increasingly more important.

  • Choosing a Program: There are many options available to consider in the decision making process: length of program, size of university, location, and format of program (in person or online). Other factors to consider include program rankings, program flexibility, admission rate, tuition/expenses, alumni network, and accreditation.
  • Accreditation: The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) reviews interior design programs with quality standards established by the profession. CIDA’s accreditation process is voluntary and only for professional-level degree programs (Bachelor’s or first professional Master’s). A program’s CIDA accreditation demonstrates a commitment to quality and continual improvement. While CIDQ accreditation is not required, as long as a program has been accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body, the level of education will allow the interior designer to sit for the NCIDQ Examination. However, some state's interior design regulations and laws specify accreditation.
  • Meet with a Faculty Member: Set up an appointment with a faculty member at the schools you are most interested in. This is a good way to decide whether or not a program is right for you. Ask the faculty member about the types of classes that are offered, the teaching philosophy of the program, what percentage of graduates actually pursue interior design careers, and what types of jobs they have landed.

Experience

In addition to formal education, the NCIDQ Examination eligibility requires qualified work experience. Depending on the education, the total amount of verified work experience varies.

Examination

The NCIDQ Examination is the broad-based exam for all interior designers and serves as the foundation from which to build for those moving into specialty design areas. NCIDQ Certification is required for the practice of many types of interior design in regulated jurisdictions throughout North America. Certification enables designers to easily validate their knowledge, experience and skill to employers and clients alike.

The NCIDQ Examination is administered by the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ). CIDQ, which is comprised of regulatory boards from across the United States and Canada, takes seriously its responsibility to protect the public. Accordingly, NCIDQ Certified interior designers meet a minimum of education and work experience and pass the three-part NCIDQ Exam, which is based on CIDQ’s independent, comprehensive analysis of the profession and the daily practice of interior design in a range of settings. NCIDQ Certification meets legal and regulatory standards for the interior design profession as established by more than half of the states across the U.S. and the provinces in Canada.

Areas of Specialization

Interior designers work in a wide range of settings, both commercial and residential. Surveys indicate that a majority of designers practice at least part of the time in both the residential and commercial areas, although they tend to favor one or the other.

Learn more about the career path options and how you can take advantage of lifelong learning with ASID in the Career section.

Occupational Outlook and State of the Industry

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, about three out of 10 interior designers are self-employed—four times the proportion for all professional and related occupations. About two out of 10 wage and salary interior designers work in specialized design services. Another one out of 10 worked in firms offering architectural and landscape architectural services. The remainder of interior designers provided design services in furniture and home furnishing stores, building material and supplies dealers, and residential building construction companies. Many interior designers also performed freelance work in addition to holding a salaried job in design or in another occupation.

Learn more about key factors at global, national, and industry levels that affect the interior design profession in the ASID Interior Design 2016-2017 Outlook and State of the Industry.

View the Report