What Can I Do with a Degree in Interior Design?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in interior design. Find information on interior design careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in interior design.


Do you have a knack for knowing how to combine colors, textures, furniture and lighting to create aesthetically pleasing and functional interior spaces? If so, interior design may be the right profession for you. Interior designers are responsible for combining a myriad of tools and disciplines to provide individuals and businesses with work and living spaces that are safe, efficient, and attractive. While an innate ability to coordinate and integrate different elements of design is helpful, successful interior designers must also have a wide range of technical expertise that includes: knowledge of building codes, understanding of sustainable development and design, and the ability to integrate function and safety into a living or work space. All of these skills can be acquired through obtaining a degree in interior design.

Because of the technical expertise and skills required for interior designers, higher education is typically needed. Most degree programs for interior design consist of 2 or 4 year programs. Two year programs provide an associate degree while four year programs provide a bachelor’s degree. Graduate degrees in interior design are also available for professionals seeking to enhance their marketability and competitive advantage. After receiving a degree in interior design, many professionals choose a 1 to 3 year apprenticeship to help them apply what they have learned in the classroom. Education and experience is needed for licensure in the field. Many states require interior designers to have a license. Licensure is typically provided to professionals with six or more years of combined education and experience in the field.

Careers in the Field

The decision to enter the field of interior design comes with a wide range of options for career choice and advancement. Initially, students seeking degrees in interior design will be required to select an area of specialization: residential or commercial interior design. Residential interior designers will work primarily with individual homeowners to design living spaces that are comfortable and functional. Commercial interior designers will work primarily with businesses and organizations to develop and design buildings such as hotels, retail spaces and offices. As interior designers progress in their careers, they may choose to seek specialization through certification. In particular, interior designers may choose to seek advanced training in computer aided design (CAD) to provide architectural support for a design project. Additionally, operational certifications from the National Kitchen and Bath Association can enable the interior designer to work on a broader range of design projects. As interior designers progress through their careers, they may also assume managerial roles. Many interior designers become project managers, responsible for the design and development of large commercial projects.

Salary Information

Salaries for interior designers are dependent on the type of projects undertaken by the professional, level of education and years of experience. For instance, interior designers that provide architectural and engineering services earn a median wage of $49,290 annually. Interior designers that specialize in design services only can early a median annual wage of $45,470. A broader snapshot of wages in the interior design indicates that overall, median annual salaries for interior designers are approximately $44,950 with professionals in the middle 50 percent earning between $34,620 and $61,880. The highest 10 percent of interior designers make more than $87,750 annually while the lowest 10 percent make less than $27,230.

The salaries paid to interior designers represent a unique pay structure that is atypical for most professions. Specifically, interior designers working for design firms are paid a per hour consulting fee along with a commission on the total cost of materials purchased by the client. Commercial interior designers have a similar pay system with commissions paid based on a percentage of the square footage built by the client. Most interior design positions also include benefit packages.

Job Outlook

For those considering pursuing a degree in interior design, the job prospects are quite good. Data regarding growth in the industry indicates that the demand for interior designers will grow faster than average at a rate of 19 percent from now through 2018. Specific areas where design services will be most sought include: residential design, healthcare, kitchen design, environmental design and ergonomic design. Although the job outlook for interior design positions is quite strong, individuals considering entering the field should be aware that competition in the industry has intensified in recent years. Talented individuals entering the field continue to make interior design a competitive field, creating considerable rivalry for open positions. Professionals can make themselves more marketable by acquiring additional training and certification. As demand in specific areas such as ergonomics, environmental design and kitchen design increases, professionals with certification in these areas will be able to increase their job prospects.

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