An associate or bachelor's degree is needed for entry-level positions in
interior design. Some States license interior designers.
Education and training. Postsecondary
education is necessary for entry-level positions in interior design. Training
programs are available from professional design schools or from colleges and
universities and usually take 2 to 4 years to complete. Graduates of 2-year or
3-year programs are awarded certificates or associate degrees in interior design
and normally qualify as assistants to interior designers upon graduation.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree usually qualify for a formal design
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately
300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these
schools award a degree in interior design. Applicants may be required to submit
sketches and other examples of their artistic ability. Basic coursework includes
CAD, drawing, perspective, spatial planning, color and fabrics, furniture
design, architecture, ergonomics, ethics, and psychology.
The Council for Interior Design Accreditation also accredits interior design
programs that lead to a bachelor's or master's degree. In 2008, there were over
150 accredited programs in interior design in the United States; most are part
of schools or departments of art, architecture, and home economics.
After the completion of formal training, interior designers can enter a
1-year to 3-year apprenticeship to gain experience before working on their own.
Most apprentices work in design or architecture firms under the supervision of
an experienced designer. Apprentices also may choose to gain experience working
as an in-store designer in furniture stores. The National Council for Interior
Design Qualification offers the Interior Design Experience Program, which helps
entry-level interior designers gain valuable work experience by supervising
their work and offering mentoring services to new designers.
Licensure. A number of States register or
license interior designers. The National Council for Interior Design
Qualification administers the licensing exam for interior design qualification.
To be eligible to take the exam, applicants must have at least 6 years of
combined education and experience in interior design, of which at least 2 years
must be postsecondary education.
Once candidates have passed the qualifying exam, they are granted the title
of Certified, Registered, or Licensed Interior Designer, depending on the State.
Continuing education is often required to maintain licensure.
Other qualifications. Employers
increasingly prefer interior designers who are familiar with computer-aided
design software and the basics of architecture and engineering to ensure that
their designs meet building safety codes.
In addition to possessing technical knowledge, interior designers must be
creative, imaginative, and persistent and must be able to communicate their
ideas visually, verbally, and in writing. Because tastes in style can change
fairly quickly, designers need to be well read, open to new ideas and
influences, and quick to react to changing trends. Problem-solving skills and
the ability to work independently and under pressure are additional important
traits. People in this field need self-discipline to start projects on their
own, to budget their time, and to meet deadlines and production schedules. Good
business sense and sales ability also are important, especially for those who
freelance or run their own business.
Certification and advancement. Optional
certifications in residential kitchen and bath design are available from the
National Kitchen and Bath Association. The association offers several different
levels of certification for kitchen and bath designers, each achieved through
training seminars and certification exams.
Beginning interior designers receive on-the-job training and normally need 1
to 3 years of training before they can advance to higher level positions.
Experienced designers in large firms may advance to chief designer, design
department head, or some other supervisory position. Some experienced designers
open their own firms or decide to specialize in one aspect of interior design.
Other designers leave the occupation to become teachers in schools of design or
in colleges and universities. Many faculty members continue to consult privately
or operate small design studios to complement their classroom activities.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
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