Interior designers plan the layout, functionality and design of commercial, industrial and residential spaces. Unlike interior decorators, who work to "dress up" a defined space, interior designers often work with architects who are building or renovating a space. For this reason, the skill set for interior designers overlaps that for architects, and it is useful to have a solid educational foundation in the field to function as an effective professional.
Popular interior design degrees
Most designers need at least a bachelor's degree to obtain an entry-level job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is because interior designers must know not only about design fundamentals such as color palettes, furniture, lighting and window coverings, but also about more sophisticated areas such as reading design blueprints, making facilities handicap-accessible and meeting building and fire codes.
Most associate online architecture degree programs are two to three years in length and qualify graduates to work as assistants. Those wanting a formal apprenticeship program should seek a bachelor's degree. Typically, bachelor's degree training introduces students to coursework in fields like architecture, computer-aided design, color and fabrics, ergonomics, furniture design and more. Most graduates work as an apprentice for one to three years before branching out on their own.
Interior designers can also seek advanced certificate training in fields like residential and kitchen bath design or commercial design. Other general certification programs are available. While a bachelor's degree (in any field) is generally needed to start in a certificate program, students could be able to enter without any type of college training. The education in these certificate programs is typically extensive due to their focus on preparing students for related licensing exams.
Benefits of online degrees in interior design
When it comes to working in the field, interior designers need skills in many areas. This includes working with drafting triangles, computer software, tablet computers and more. Technology is an increasingly important part of the job and familiarity with computer-aided design and graphic software can be essential.
Online degrees in interior design offer flexibility for design students. Coursework including business codes, CAD drafting, and the history of architecture and design can all be studied online.
Online programs allow students to use the computer as an integral part of their career from the start, and this familiarity could prove beneficial when it comes to using computer design programs, marketing a business online or searching for and purchasing materials via the Internet.
What to expect from a career in interior design
According to the BLS, 40,120 interior designers were employed in the U.S. in 2010 with 15,810 working in specialized design services. With a projected career growth of 19 percent between 2008 and 2018, the job is expected to offer even more opportunities in the coming years.
Interior designers often work in furniture or home and garden stores and even provide design services or sell merchandise. For example, nearly 5,000 interior designers worked in furniture stores or home furnishing stores in 2010 in the U.S., according to the BLS. Others work as in-store designers and guide customers in selecting colors and styles and finding accessories to suit their needs.
Interior designers can also work on their own, but it may take years to build up a client base and expand a business. Interior design assistants can be helpful as business starts to grow. Some interior designers specialize in specific areas--such as bathroom and kitchen--while others use their skills in a diverse number of ways. According to the BLS, three areas that are growing in popularity include elder, ergonomic and environmental design.
Interior design at a glance
- Associations to join: the International Interior Design Association or the American Society of Interior Designers
- Mean hourly wages for U.S. interior designers: $25.05
- Number of interior designers working in the U.S.: 40,120
- States with the most interior designers: California, Texas and New York