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Becoming an Interior Designer

This article is aimed at students in the United States who are looking to become an interior designer and want to find out more about the profession, the education involved, work environment, and average salary.

Interior Designer or Interior Decorator?

Interior Designer or Interior Decorator

People often romanticize the work of an interior designer with the misleading notion that interior design consists solely of picking out colors and fabrics for a room. These duties are a bit closer to interior decorating. But an interior designer has an array of responsibilities that include both those of an interior decorator as well as more complex jobs. They include light management, space planning, color coordination, providing estimates that fit a budget, and subcontracting the fabrication and installation of flooring, light fixtures, draperies, paint and wall coverings, furniture, and so on.

An increasing number of interior designers even take part in the architectural aspect of building of a home, so designers need to be able to read blueprints and possess a knowledge of building codes. It is desirable for an interior designer to have experience with CAD software and home design software in order to prepare blueprints or presentations for clients.

Below is a more complete list of responsibilities that interior designers often take on.

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Training and Entry Requirements

Training

Up until recent years there existed no accredited education programs for budding interior designers in the United States. Now there are a number of institutions with interior design programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. These programs typically run from two to five years and most often lead to an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree. Coursework for these programs may include CAD, furniture design, color and fabrics, space planning, ergonomics, architectural courses, and even psychology.

Most interior designers opt to enter an apprenticeship after a formal education. During this time recent graduates work under the supervision of an experienced interior designer. This gives designers a chance to build a portfolio and learn the nooks and crannies of the business before going solo.

Interior designers can also choose to become certified by passing an exam administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). One must have both a formal education and work experience to even sit for the NCIDQ exam. Note that this certificate is a requirement for professional registration in 26 of the U.S. states and Canadian provinces that require licensing for interior designers. You must also possess an NCIDQ certificate if you wish to become a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, International Interior Design Association, and the Interior Designers of Canada.

Work Environment and Conditions

Interior designers most often work as a part of a larger design team or on a freelance basis, although some find work in architectural firms or home-furnishing stores. Clients range from individuals wanting to renovate their homes to corporations planning to open a new business location.

Building relationships with clients is an absolute must for any interior designer regardless of where he or she works since the main goal of an interior designer is to identify the wants and needs of a client and integrate them into both the aesthetics and function of the interior. This can lead to working on weekends or long hours in order to fit a client's schedule.

Interior designers tend to travel from place to place quite a bit since much of their time is spent on-site discussing plans with clients and overseeing contracted work. But interior designers actually spend the majority of their time in the office.

Note that interior designers often work under stress since they constantly juggle deadlines and budgets.

Earnings

Earnings

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wages for interior designers were $44,950 as of May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between The lowest 10 percent earned $27,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,750. Read more of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says about the earnings of interior designers.

Give Interior Design a Try

Designing interiors is a fulfilling job that allows one to express his or her creativity, but it is by far not for everyone. Those wishing to become interior designers are encouraged to try themselves at interior design before making the decision to enroll at a design institute. You can do this by designing the interior of your own home or getting acquainted with home design software. If you find that interior design is for you, then embrace yourself for a worthwhile career and jump in head first!

More in This Interior Design Article Series

Using the Color Wheel: Finding the Right Color Scheme for Your Interior
Learn how to the color wheel can help you decide on a color scheme for your interior.

Interior Lighting Tips: Task Lighting
Find out more about the concept of task lighting and how to effectively light work areas.

Basics of Window Types and Styles
Get some window talk under your belt before meeting with your window salesman.

Comparing Light Bulb Types
Find out which bulb will be banned by 2014 and which will save a significant amount of money.

Ray East III
Published: April 2010