What Does an Interior Designer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Designers discussing fabric swatches in conference room meeting
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Interior designers create indoor spaces that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and safe. They may work on commercial or residential spaces.

Interior Designer Duties & Responsibilities

The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:

  • Bid on new projects and estimate costs
  • Determine project requirements and goals
  • Create preliminary design plans through sketching
  • Create final design plans with computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Identify and order materials and furnishings for projects, such as lighting, furniture, wall finishes, flooring, and fixtures
  • Create and manage project timelines
  • Oversee construction and installation of the design elements
  • Follow up on completed projects to ensure client satisfaction

Interior designers usually work in cooperation with other professionals such as architects, general contractors, and engineers to complete projects. They must be able to draw, read and edit blueprints, and they also must know about building regulations and codes.

Interior designers often specialize in certain areas, such as corporate offices, healthcare facilities, or kitchens.

Interior Designer Salary

An interior designer's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer.

  • Median Annual Salary: $29,970 
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $53,370 
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $94,130 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Education, Training, & Certification

Education: Most interior design candidates complete a four-year degree program, majoring in interior design. Many of these programs are accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, which ensures that the curriculum meets the field’s standards. Before choosing a program, it's a good idea to check its accreditation status.

Coursework often includes 3D design, the design process, architecture, the history of interior design, architectural drawing, building standards, computer-aided design, lighting design, and building materials.

Certification: Many states have certification guidelines for interior designers, but these standards and classifications vary widely. A common requirement is passing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification Exam.

Some states only allow licensed designers to do interior design work. Other states allow both licensed and unlicensed designers to do interior design work, but some only allow people with licenses to use the title “interior designer.”

Interior Designer Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities

  • Interpersonal skills: Strong interpersonal skills are required for effective interaction with clients, builders, and architects, who might have conflicting design ideas. Customer service and sales skills are necessary to secure new business opportunities and garner referrals from satisfied clients.
  • Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving ability is essential for designers when resolving challenges with construction, contractors, and clients.
  • Precision: Interior designers need to be precise and detail-oriented, as they measure spaces and calculate the materials needed for their projects.
  • Management skills: Since most interior designers work independently or with a few partners, management skills are important to carry out the administrative functions necessary to run a business. Review this list of interior design skills.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in this field will grow 4% through 2026, which is slower than the overall employment growth of 7% for all occupations in the country.

Work Environment

Interior designers usually work in an office, and they travel to clients' design sites as well. They may use drafting tables to draw plans, but many designers now use computers to do that.

Work Schedule

Interior designers work varying hours depending on their clients' needs and schedules, project scope, and deadlines. This sometimes includes work during evening and weekend hours.

How to Get the Job

Create a portfolio

Potential designers need to assemble a portfolio of projects from previous courses, internships, and jobs, showing “before and after photos” for their renovation projects. It’s a good idea to create a website for your portfolio so you can list the URL on your resume or share it with potential employers via email.

Build professional connections

Networking is an important job search strategy for interior design candidates. Interior designers still in school can join the International Interior Design Association as student members. In addition, student designers should participate in any relevant networking opportunities, design competitions, and workshops to develop relationships with seasoned professionals.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming interior designers may also consider other careers with these median salaries: 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018