CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become an interior designer.
Is becoming an interior designer right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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If you're interested in becoming an interior designer, there are several high school courses that can help prepare you for this field. Here are some courses to consider:
- Art and Design: Courses in art and design can help you develop your creativity and aesthetic sense, which are important skills for an interior designer. Consider taking courses in drawing, painting, sculpture, and graphic design.
- Math: Interior design often involves measuring and calculating dimensions, materials, and costs. Courses in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry can help you develop these skills.
- Computer Science: Many interior designers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create floor plans and other design drawings. Courses in computer science can help you develop the technical skills needed to use these programs.
- Business: Interior designers often work with clients and need to understand business concepts such as budgets, contracts, and project management. Courses in business, economics, and accounting can be helpful.
- English: Strong communication skills are important for an interior designer, both in writing and in speaking. English courses can help you develop these skills.
- Home Economics: Courses in home economics can give you a foundation in design principles and help you develop practical skills in areas such as sewing, upholstery, and home decor.
Formal Education Steps
To become an interior designer, formal education is typically required. Here is a detailed overview of the education requirements for interior designers:
- Bachelor's Degree: Most interior design jobs require a Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design or a related field. These programs typically take four years to complete and provide a comprehensive education in design principles, materials and finishes, drafting and rendering, and the use of computer-aided design (CAD) software.
- Accreditation: Look for interior design programs that are accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). This ensures that the program meets high standards for quality and prepares students for professional practice.
- Curriculum: Interior design programs typically include courses in design theory, color theory, space planning, drafting, rendering, materials and finishes, lighting, and building codes and regulations. Some programs may also offer courses in business and project management to prepare students for the business aspects of the profession.
- Internships: Many interior design programs require students to complete an internship or other work experience to gain practical experience in the field. This can be a valuable opportunity to build a professional network and gain real-world experience working on design projects.
- Continuing Education: Interior designers must keep up with the latest trends, technologies, and regulations in the field. Continuing education courses, such as those offered by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), can help designers stay current with industry developments and maintain their professional credentials.
Currently, only a few states require interior designers to obtain a license to practice professionally. These states typically regulate the practice of interior design to ensure public health, safety, and welfare. The states that require interior designers to be licensed or registered include:
- Alabama: Interior designers are required to be registered to practice commercial interior design.
- Florida: Interior designers must be licensed by the Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design to practice commercial interior design.
- Louisiana: Interior designers must be registered by the Louisiana State Board of Interior Designers to practice interior design.
- Nevada: Interior designers must be registered by the Nevada State Board of Architecture, Interior Design, and Residential Design to practice interior design.
- Washington, D.C.: Interior designers must be licensed by the District of Columbia Board of Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture to practice interior design.
The process for licensure for interior designers varies by state but generally includes the following steps:
- Education: Complete a degree program in interior design or a related field from an accredited institution. Some states may have specific educational requirements, such as a minimum number of credit hours in interior design coursework.
- Experience: Gain relevant work experience in interior design through internships, apprenticeships, or employment under a licensed interior designer or design firm. Some states may have experience requirements that must be met before applying for licensure.
- Examination: Pass the required examination(s) administered by the state licensing board or regulatory agency. The examination may cover topics such as building codes, design principles, construction documents, and professional practice standards.
- Application: Submit an application for licensure to the state licensing board or regulatory agency, along with any required documentation, such as transcripts, proof of experience, and examination scores. Pay any applicable fees associated with the application process.
- Review and Approval: The state licensing board or regulatory agency will review the application to ensure that all requirements have been met. Once the application is approved, the candidate will be issued a license to practice interior design in the state.
- Continuing Education: Maintain the licensure by fulfilling any continuing education requirements mandated by the state licensing board. This may involve completing a certain number of continuing education credits or hours periodically to stay updated on industry trends, regulations, and best practices.
Interior design is a broad field that encompasses a wide range of specialties. Pursuing a specialization requires additional education and training beyond a Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design. It is important to research your desired specialization area and choose an education program that aligns with your career goals.
Here are some of the most common specializations and the education required for each:
- Residential Design: Residential designers focus on designing interior spaces in homes, apartments, and other residential buildings. A degree in interior design or a related field is typically required, along with coursework in residential design, space planning, and color theory.
- Commercial Design: Commercial designers work on interior spaces in commercial buildings such as offices, retail stores, and hotels. A degree in interior design or a related field is typically required, along with coursework in commercial design, building codes, and universal design principles.
- Hospitality Design: Hospitality designers specialize in designing interior spaces for the hospitality industry, including hotels, resorts, and restaurants. A degree in interior design or a related field is typically required, along with coursework in hospitality design, lighting design, and sustainable design principles.
- Healthcare Design: Healthcare designers specialize in designing interior spaces for healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. A degree in interior design or a related field is typically required, along with coursework in healthcare design, infection control, and sustainability.
- Sustainable Design: Sustainable designers specialize in creating interior spaces that are environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. A degree in interior design or a related field is typically required, along with coursework in sustainable design principles, green materials and technologies, and LEED certification.
- Set Design: Set designers specialize in creating interior spaces for film, television, and theater productions. A degree in interior design or a related field is typically required, along with coursework in set design, lighting design, and production design.
There are several certifications available for interior designers. These certifications can demonstrate a designer's expertise in a particular area of interior design and can be a valuable addition to their credentials. Here are some of the most recognized certifications:
- NCIDQ Certification: The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) is the most widely recognized certification for interior designers in North America. It is a three-part exam that assesses a designer's knowledge of building systems, codes, and regulations, as well as their design skills.
- LEED Certification: The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council to professionals who demonstrate expertise in sustainable design. There are several levels of certification, ranging from LEED Green Associate to LEED Fellow.
- WELL Certification: The WELL Building Standard is a certification program that focuses on the health and well-being of building occupants. The WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) certification is awarded to professionals who demonstrate knowledge of the standard and its application to interior design.
- CID Certification: The Certified Interior Decorators International (CID) certification is awarded by the Certified Interior Decorators International organization to professionals who demonstrate expertise in interior decoration.
- CKD and CBD Certification: The Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) and Certified Bathroom Designer (CBD) certifications are awarded by the National Kitchen and Bath Association to professionals who demonstrate expertise in kitchen and bathroom design, respectively.
- CCIDC Certification: The California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) certification is awarded to professionals who meet education and experience requirements and pass an exam on California codes and regulations.