Interior Designer

What Is Interior Design?

Interior design is a type of art that is both creative and practical. A well-designed interior is more than just beautiful; it’s also comfortable, safe, easy to spend time in and supports the purpose of the room. Interior designers are held to strict safety standards and are expected to make interiors that meet the needs of the clients while also ensuring that the environment will meet modern health codes, safety regulations, and other practical expectations.

Interior design draws its influence from art theory, current trends and historical precedents. People who work as interior designers have in-depth knowledge of the history of interior design, a practical understanding of fabrics, a working knowledge of construction materials, and a thorough knowledge of present-day safety standards.

What Does an Interior Designer Do?

Interior designers work with clients to discuss their vision for an interior space. Considering environmental factors, the history of a building, the expectations of the property owner and the general rules of two and three-dimensional design, interior designers create beautiful spaces where people enjoy spending time.

Interior designers focus on the aesthetic beauty of the room as a unified whole. They experiment with different colors, patterns, and pieces of furniture until they find the right furnishings, the right arrangement, the right upholstery, carpeting and so on. All of this is done while accounting for safety standards, building codes and other factors that must be considered.

Interior design is a growing industry with good job prospects and a good salary. With hard work and a little ingenuity, creative minded individuals who enjoy working with people, who have a knack for staying organized and managing large projects, and who understand and appreciate the concepts of design can enjoy a long-standing interior design career. Interior design is one of the ways in which an art student or aspiring artist can pursue a practical career with worldwide demand.

Interior designers may be able to find work in any location where a consumer demand exists for professionals to facilitate beautiful interior design. For an artist who enjoys working with textiles and building materials, who has an appreciation for furniture, texture, and flow, and who enjoys applying technical knowledge to their art creation, interior design is an excellent career choice.

Common Duties and Functions of an Interior Designer

An interior designer’s typical job duties are multi-faceted. A typical interior designer is expected to:

Advise the client on the topic of interior design: Many clients are actively involved in the interior design process. Interior designers must answer questions and gather information from the client to meet the needs and personal preferences of the client.

Work within the given budget for the client: The budget is a limiting factor that must be taken into consideration in any interior design project. It is the responsibility of the interior designer to find out that budget and stay within the expected parameters. Establishing a contract, putting expectations into writing and communicating clearly with the client can help the interior designer to work within these parameters.

Work with contractors and architects: Often interior designers are involved in interior remodel and build projects. The interior designer is responsible for communicating with contractors and architects to ensure that the design features inside the homework with the architectural and building elements of the home.

Create detailed interior design plans and then present them to the client for approval: No design is ever implemented without the approval of the property owner or job supervisor. Sometimes interior designers come up with very detailed plans only to have them refused by the client. When this happens, the client and designer must work carefully to re-work plans and devise a plan that works.

Keep up with changes in trends, changes in materials and standards within the industry: Interior design is a career path that changes with the whims and desires of the clients. As colors, materials, and styles come into and go out of fashion, interior designers must keep up with these changes.

Important Skills and Knowledge

Interior designers must have training and skills in a wide range of subjects.

Good artistic sensibility: At the heart of every job completed by an interior designer is a strong appreciation for and understanding of design conventions and artistic beauty. Interior designers must go to school for art. In their time at school, interior designers must come to understand the fundamental concepts of two-dimensional and three-dimensional design, color theory, manipulation of artistic tools and so on. Interior designers take artistic risks. Having a mature artistic style and confidence in one’s own ability to create pleasing, artful interiors comes from years of art training and practice.

Project planning, administration, and management: Managing the business end of interior design requires strong administrative abilities. Interior designers manage large projects, track progress of other entities, keep a calendar, attend meetings, return phone calls and engage in activities typical for a business executive. Business acumen is an important skill that can help an interior designer work successfully with clients and vendors to see a project through to its completion.

Communication skills: More than many other types of artists, interior designers must communicate with other people in order to complete projects. Many clients will not know what they want, or will not be able to articulate their desires clearly. It’s up to the interior designer to draw these ideas out of the client to create a design that meets the client’s needs. In addition, the interior designer may need to work carefully with architects, contractors, and material vendors. Forming organized sentences, speaking clearly and voicing ideas articulately can help the interior designer work with others involved in each project.

Customer service: Returning phone calls, changing plans to meet the needs of the client, speaking politely and treating clients well can help interior designers find success in their careers. Providing good customer service builds trust between the client and the designer and helps establish a positive working relationship that can lead to referrals and future work.

Computer skills: Throughout the course of a normal day, an interior designer might work with a variety of design programs that support their projects. Interior designers must be proficient with everything from CAD software to email programs, video editing software, spreadsheet software and photo imaging software. The level of proficiency required to truly manage a large interior design project comes from years of experience both on the job and in academic settings. Interior designers must have good instincts for working with new programs and must have basic skills like typing, conducting Internet research, etc.

Interior Design Degrees, Education, and Training

Many interior designers begin their career by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in interior design. Most art schools offer interior design programs, as do art departments from large universities. A degree program in interior design will teach the art-side of being an interior designer as well as some of the technical aspects of the profession. CAD software, drafting, space planning, green design, the history of architecture and similar subjects are all part of a standard interior design program.

The development of business skills may not be a focus of the curriculum or learning objectives of an interior design degree program. Students who wish to build up their business and administrative acumen may do so by taking business focused courses, majoring in business, or through on the job training. Other options that will help you prepare for the demands of business include workshops, seminars, internships, and self-study. Those who do not pursue a bachelor’s degree in interior design may still be able to find work as an interior designer if they have completed coursework relevant to the industry, and have the right type of experience to build on. 

Advanced Degree Options

An advanced degree is not a requirement to become an interior designer. However, there are many master’s degree programs in interior design offered by universities across the country that help students earn credentials and build expert knowledge in areas of specialization such as fine art, art history or industrial design.

Interior Design License and Certification

A license is required to practice interior design in some states. In states where a license is required, students are typically expected to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) Exam. The NCIDQ exam tests a designer's practical knowledge of building codes and building systems, construction standards, professional practices, project coordination, health and safety codes, administration and design application. The NCIDQ test is designed to ensure that interior designers understand their responsibility for the health and safety of their clients. To qualify for the exam, applicants must complete six years of combined education and work experience. All academic credit hours must be earned from an interior design program accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation which ensures that industry standards for professionalism and quality are met.  

Specialty certifications are not required but can be helpful for interior designers who want to highlight a skillset that separates them from others working in the field. Competition for open jobs and clients can be extremely high in the field of interior design, which makes specialization an important selling point. Specialty certifications are administered by trade and professional associations, such as the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

Interior Designer Salary & Job Outlook

According to occupational data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2017, the median annual salary for interior designers was $51,500. This figure specifically references employment within the industry of specialized design services. Interior designers working in the architectural and engineering industries earned a higher median annual salary of $57,620. The top 10 percent of professionals in the field earned more than $91,230.Interior designers typically find themselves working for businesses that offer specialized design services, such interior design firms, architectural or engineering firms, or wholesale trade stores like kitchen and bath showrooms. Other common employers of interior designers include retail stores, furniture companies, construction companies, and real estate development firms. Although interior designers can specialize in a variety of industries, the job itself is divided into two basic categories: residential and commercial. Interior designers who specialize in residential interiors may work for showrooms, architecture firms and interior design firms. Designers who specialize in commercial design may work for corporate offices or may work for an interior design firm that specializes in commercial design. Learn more about Industrial Design Careers.


FAST FACTS: Industrial Designers
2016 Median Pay

$51,500 per year
$24.76 per hour

Recommended Level of Education

Bachelor's degree

Number of Jobs in 2014


Expected % Change in Employment (2014-2024)

4% (Slower than average)

Expected 10 Year Employment Growth (2014-2024)


Source: BLS - Occupational Outlook Handbook

Interior Designer Salaries by Industry


Activities Related to Real Estate


Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)


Computer Systems Design and Related Services


Warehousing and Storage


Land Subdivision

Source: BLS OES - Industry Profile
Mean Hourly Wage Mean Annual Wage

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Interior Designer

  1. New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ
  2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
  3. Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX
  4. Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL
  5. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  6. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX
  7. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA
  8. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
  9. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA NECTA Division
  10. Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics OES

Helpful Resources

  • Introduction To The Psychology Of Color: For Interior Designers

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    Kathryn PomroyJun 19, 2017

    Color can alter a person’s mood, incite anger, evoke happiness, or call to mind feelings of indifference and sadness. Even so, most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the effects of color in their homes or offices. Yet, the color and design in our home ...

  • Interior Design Specializations

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    Kathryn PomroyJun 28, 2017

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    An art career cannot happen overnight. Becoming an artist takes dedication, hard work, and a plan. Learning early lessons about how to develop your skills, attract clients, and market yourself can help you generate early results.

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    The life of an artist is often glamorized, while the real challenges of being an artist tend to be glossed over. Here we provide a few tips on how to deal with early challenges, like facing criticism, dealing with frustration, and meeting the right people.

Interior Designer Jobs