The idea of a career as an interior designer often manifests images of days spent being creative, surrounded by beauty and color. And though there is some truth in those perceptions; that is just a small part of what being an interior designer requires.

Interior residential designers are responsible for creating rooms and spaces which are tailored to their client’s preferences and needs, even if the client cannot communicate them. The majority of the tasks for which an interior designer is responsible are business related. Interior designers must sell their services to clients, keep detailed records and accounts of each client and job, negotiate prices with wholesalers and retailers, make sure the design and work that is done complies with building codes and regulations and ensure that the contractors they hire have the work done on time and correctly. For an interior designer, it is important to be as knowledgeable about business as they are about fabric, color and design.

Interior design is an enigmatic field which offers the individuals entering the field a range of options. An interior designer is not limited to working just one particular area in of decorating and/or design. Interior designers can specialize in commercial or residential design. The responsibilities of a residential designer are not limited to paint color and furniture arrangement. In addition to choosing colors, style and fabrics, residential interior designers must consider lighting, building layouts for homes undergoing construction and the architectural details such as moldings and built in shelving. Commercial designers can then choose to specialize in a particular setting; banks, restaurants, offices, hotels. Then there are many positions within these specialties which an individual can choose; project manager, draftsperson, sales representative. You can choose to operate your own design firm, become a partner in a firm, or work in a design capacity in a business.

High School

Though there really isn’t a curriculum in high school dedicated to aspiring interior designers, there are specific courses you will want to complete. Designers must have the ability to calculate dimensions and measurements quickly and accurately. Math courses are certainly helpful, especially Geometry, and are required for entry into college. Art courses will sharpen your skills for drafting, color selections and identifying coordinating patterns and colors. Develop your writing skills as you will need them for many aspects of your job as an interior designer. Business writing will be especially important. Take business law courses if they are offered. Computer courses are invaluable and will be required in college. Take the courses which are offered at your school. If courses are available at your local community center, it wouldn’t hurt to attend those also. Drafting courses are sometimes offered in high school. If you are able to take any courses in drafting, especially computer aided drafting; it is advisable to do so.

Try to find an after school or summer job with an interior designer or a firm. You could also offer your assistance without compensation. Interior designers have a lot of details which require attendance. Some of these tasks are menial and take up valuable time. Having someone to attend to these details will allow the interior designer to concentrate on activities of more importance which require their expertise. Not only will this provide the opportunity to gain experience in the field, but it will start you on the long road of networking. Networking is an integral aspect of interior design. The interior design community is nepotistic in nature; designers develop close relationships with others in their field which result in referrals and recommendations. If you work with an interior designer during high school you will have the individual you work with as a contact and you will develop associations with others through your work.


College was not always necessary for someone intending to pursue a career as an interior designer. However, in more recent years, college has become a requirement for someone aspiring to be an interior designer. The college requirement triggered a need for colleges to develop a quality program which would ensure the students had sufficient training in all aspects of the field. The foundation for interior design education or FIDER is the nationally recognized accreditation organization which dictates the certification of college interior design degree programs. Choose a college with a certified program. The list of qualified accredited programs can be located at the following link: The coursework you complete should include computer aided drafting classes which train in the use of AutoCAD. Courses in business and marketing will provide invaluable tools which will help an interior designer market themselves as a product and effectively manage the business aspects of their job.

The American Society of Interior Designers is a reputable organization whose membership offers substantial benefits. The society provides information concerning accreditation through the National Council for Interior Design, protecting your business, continuing education and provides a referral database. The society provides networking opportunities for designers and connects designers and manufactures. A number of colleges with interior design degree programs have student chapters. Become a member and you can attend their distinguished speakers’ series, apply for grants and scholarships, and even participate in student competitions. If your college doesn’t have an existing chapter, get permission to start one.

Advanced degrees are not a requirement for interior designers. But interior design is such a diverse field, requiring knowledge and skills in so many areas, that an advanced degree could only serve to benefit the individual. Besides augmenting your resume to make you more attractive to prospective clients, graduate studies offer more in depth theoretical and practical training. Choose a graduate degree program in business, finance, communication, even marketing. The more knowledgeable you are in these areas, the better able you will be to promote your skills and talents, translate your ideas into terms easily understood by your clients and to successfully manage your business without having to rely on someone else’s abilities to do it for you. The interior design field houses a close knit community of designers. Networking skills are essential if you want to be successful.

Internships and Apprenticeships

Interior designers are required to attain at least two years of experience before they can apply for accreditation or licensing. Check with your college to determine if they have developed affiliations with specific interior design firms. The majority of schools generally provide placement. Internships provide the opportunity to utilize the classroom skills you have been taught. Responsibilities generally entail offering assistance in client presentations, vendor management tasks, updating resources, participation on design teams and offer general assistance to the designer. You will apply your technical and creative skills. The company or firm you choose for your internship or apprenticeship can be influential and detrimental to your career. Interning with a reputable firm that is respected by the community will lend authority to your credentials, as long as your work demonstrates that you are worthy. Choose carefully and, most importantly, maintain your professionalism at all times.

Licensing and Certification

Each state has their own requirements for the licensing and certification requirements of interior designers. Some states may not require either. But many professional organizations still will. Also, attaining your certification will expand your job options and increase your desirability among clients. The National Council for Interior Design (NCID) administers the accepted exam. You must meet the council’s requirements in order to even sit for the exam. . With a bachelor degree you must have 60 of the 120 credits in design and 3520 hours of work experience. With an associate’s degree, all 60 of your credits must be in design and you must complete 5280 hours of work experience. An application is mandatory to register fro the exam to ensure you have met their requirements. Once you have completed the application and are approved for the exam, you can register online.

The exam is offered twice a year and spans two days. You can choose to take the exam in parts. When you register, select either to take the entire exam or just the sections for which you want to test. You can then take the other sections at the next test date. The test is given once in the spring and once in the fall. The exam is given in three sections. The test consists of two multiple choice sections of 150 questions covering the areas of programming, schematic design, design development, contract documents, contract administration and professional practice. The last section is a practicum where you will demonstrate your ability to handle interior design problems.

After you have completed and passed the test, you will need to apply for licensure in the state(s) in which you intend to work. The majority of states have legislation in regards to the interior design profession. The states with licensing requirements include: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. Eleven more states have introduced legislation for licensing regulations. Check with the various states to find out the requirements you need to meet in order to be licensed in the state.


A portfolio is the optimal method of displaying your capabilities to potential clients and employers. Take before and after pictures of every project you work. You should begin doing this as early as high school. Not only does it show what you have done, it also demonstrates your evolution as an interior designer. Prospective clients and employers can witness the progression of your work and capabilities. Keep design boards that you have created on your own or for projects you have worked with other people. People will get a better feel for your talent and competence when you have visual displays of your past work.

Continued Education

Continuing education courses and seminars are an important aspect of interior design. Just about every line of work will experience growth and changes in the various aspects of the field. Technology is constantly changing and experiences rapid evolutions and advancements. Lagging behind in these areas could significantly impact what you have to offer your clients in comparison to others in the field. It is important to stay abreast of changes in legislation, building code requirements and of new techniques and trends in the decorating field. You want to know what your competition knows. Check with the professional organizations for interior design for courses. Also talk to your college and find out if they offer continuing education and professional courses. Many of them do. Certificate programs are also offered in certain subjects which could augment your credentials.