How to Become an Interior Designer: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Interior designers renovate interior spaces in buildings. They transform everything from houses to offices, replacing interiors that are worn out—or out of style—with new interiors that look wonderful and fit the client’s budget. Interior designers need great organizational skills, creativity—and wonderful taste, of course.


Annual salaries for interior designers will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2012, the average annual salary for interior designers working in the U.S. was $54,200 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for interior designers, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Interior Design

California is the nation’s leader in employment for interior designers, with 6,200 currently working in the field, and earning an average salary of $61,660 annually. Texas is second, where 3,790 are presently making an average salary of $57,660.

The metro areas employing the most interior designers are:

  • New York-White Plains (3,080)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach (1,820)
  • Dallas (1,540)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of interior designers are:

  • Naples, FL (1.1 jobs per thousand)
  • San Francisco (0.96 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid interior designers are:

  • Santa Barbara, CA (average annual salary $77,100)
  • San Francisco, CA (average annual salary $75,700)

Employment and Salary Information for Interior Designers

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as an interior designer. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Interior Designing

Why Become An Interior Designer?

If you can’t tell blue from beige, interior design isn’t for you. But if interior design sounds like fun, it probably won’t take much to talk you into it. In fact, there are plenty of good arguments for considering a career in interior design if you have the talent:

  • Growing field. Unlike many creative professions where job growth is low, it’s projected to be a steady 13% for interior designers between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as the average job will grow in that period.
  • Use your creativity. Within the guidelines set out by the client, interior designers are hired for their creativity and ideas.
  • Redecorate people’s places for a living. That is really what interior designers do all day. Choose the colors, the textures, and the furniture.
  • Learn a specialty. Interior designers can specialize in lighting, baths, sustainable design, and all kinds of other areas.
  • Be your own boss. About 25% of interior designers were self-employed in 2012.

Interior Design: What You Need To Know

Interior design is not just about choosing color schemes. You need to be able to read plans, collaborate with architects, negotiate with clients, and listen to their suggestions and wishes. You need to show great taste within a limited budget. And you need computer-aided design skills to bring your ideas to life. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Creativity and Taste
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
  • Understanding of Materials
  • Client Management
  • Management
  • Budgeting
  • Understanding of Blueprints and Plans

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about interior design careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Interior Design Careers

Associate’s degree

There may be some entry-level opportunities for those who have earned an associate’s degree in interior design. In general, though, most employers will only hire those who have completed an undergraduate program and received a Bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s degree

There are many colleges and universities that offer interior design programs, featuring classes that include computer-aided design (CAD), drawing, design fundamentals, drafting, space planning and textiles.

Master’s degree

Larger companies may want candidates with a Master’s degree in interior design, or a related specialty such as lighting design. These programs give students the opportunity to build portfolios of their work, and also participate in internships during their studies, which may give them an advantage in the job market.


Some states require interior designers to become licensed before practicing in the field or calling themselves interior designers. In these states, those who wish to use the title must pass an examination that proves their skills in the area, which is typically given by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).

There are voluntary certifications available as well, usually providing credentials to those who wish to prove their skills in a specialty area, such as lighting or kitchens and baths.