Interior Designer Career

interior-designer-500Interior designers incorporate various disciplines to enhance the aesthetics, functionality, and safety of interior spaces. They focus on the collaboration of different textures, colors, space, lighting, and furniture to meet the needs of occupants.

Interior designers plan the interiors of nearly every kind of building, from private residences, to commercial offices, to specialized locations like hospitals, airport terminals, and shopping malls. While they traditionally focused on decorating, many are now becoming involved with architectural detailing.

Interior Designer Career Assessment

Take our Interior Designer career assessment. This 30 question quiz let’s you know if you’re cut out for a career in interior design by analyzing your abilities, skills, and interests.

1. Are you OK communicating with clients on budgets, purpose, and function of the interior environment?

2. Can you advise clients on space planning, color, and layout?

3. Are you alright coordinating with other professionals to make sure the job is done right?

4. Would you be interested in reviewing construction plans?

5. Can you estimate material requirements and costs?

6. Do you have or would you like to have knowledge of design techniques and tools related to drawings, blueprints, and models?

7. Do you have the ability to provide a high level of customer and personal services?

8. Are you interested in the materials, methods, and tools involved in the construction or repair of buildings or other structures?

9. Do you have knowledge of the structure of the English language including the spelling of words and grammar?

10. Are you interested in learning business and management principles?

11. Can you give your full attention to what others are saying?

12. Are you OK conveying information effectively?

13. Can you understand written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents?

14. Do you look for ways to help people?

15. Are you often aware of others' reactions and why they react that way?

16. Do you have the ability to listen and understand information giving to you through spoken words and sentences?

17. Do you have the ability to develop creative solutions to problems?

18. Do you have the ability to communicate information in speaking so others will understand?

19. Do you have the ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around?

20. Can you come up with a variety of ideas about a topic?

21. Can you effectively get all the relevant data through observation?

22. Are you OK thinking creatively throughout your workday?

23. Are you interested in providing documentation to tell others how to assemble parts and structures?

24. Can you communicate with people outside your place of employment?

25. Can you establish and maintain working relationships?

26. Are you OK having daily telephone conversations?

27. Can you handle having face-to-face discussions with individuals or a team almost every day?

28. Are you OK using email to communicate nearly every day?

29. Can you handle having near to constant contact with others?

30. Can you be exact or highly accurate when performing your job?

Interior Designer Career Snapshot

Interior designers often work in large or small corporations or design firms. Alternately, they may also be self-employed. Interior designers often meet with clients and work on a contract basis.

Learn more details on a career in interior design (statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Onet Online):


is the average earnings for interior designers per year.


increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.


have a Bachelor’s degree in interior design.

Interior Designer Education

A Bachelor’s Degree is recommended for entry-level positions as an Interior designer. However, there are shorter programs; such as 2-year or 3-year degrees. Upon completion of a degree, it is common for interior designers to work as an apprentice. In many states, Interior designers must take a licensing exam.

Interior Designer Job Outlook

According to the, careers in interior design are expected to increase by 4% between 2014 and 2024 which is slower than the average occupation. It’s smart for interior designers to specialize in a particular area in order to become more employable since the field is competitive.

Interior Designer Salaries

Salaries for interior designers range from $26,130 to $91,360 (as shown by the Occupational Employment Statistics survey program).

Interior Designer Job Duties

Interior designers plan the design of interior spaces including office buildings, major city and government dwellings (like airports, hospitals and shopping malls), and private homes. Their primary concerns when designing a space are function, safety, and aesthetics. Interior designers use colors, furniture, lighting, and artwork when planning.

Interior Design Career

Here are a few skills that are needed for interior designers:

Interior Design Skill Set:Required Abilities:Tools Used by Interior Design:Typical Work Activities:
•Active Listening
•Reading Comprehension
•Service Orientation
•Social Perceptiveness
•Critical Thinking
•Oral Comprehension
•Oral Expression
•Fluency of Ideas
•Near Vision

•Tablet Computers
•Tape Measures
•Drafting Triangles

•Getting Information
•Thinking Creatively
•Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work

Interior Designer Career Insights

Gain career insights from the interior designers we interviewed below:

Kerrie Kelly, Founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Kerrie Kelly, Founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Interior Designer since 1995

Why did you decide to get into the field of interior design?

I knew I wanted to be an interior design since I was a young kid. It blended my mom’s creative influence and my dad’s business sense very well.

How did you get into the profession?

I worked in the industry since I was 14 years old. I went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo for Interior Design and received a Masters in Business at University of Phoenix. Upon graduation from Cal Poly I worked for Nordstrom in Visual Merchandising, Ralph Lauren Home Collection as a buyer and Del Webb as a Design Studio and Model Merchandising Director. I simultaneously began my own side interior design business.

What do you like best about being an interior designer?

Each day is different.

What skills are most important for the profession?

Communication and balancing the creative, financial and strategic parts of your brain.

What is the most challenging thing about being an interior designer?

Not enough hours in the day to immerse myself in all the aspect of design available to us.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing a career in interior design?

Study abroad for a year.

Debbie Wiener, Founder of My Designing Solutions

Debbie Wiener, Founder of My Designing Solutions

Interior Designer of 18 years

Why did you decide to get into the interior design profession?

Desperation. Let me explain:

It all started with the scene I was making at the cash register in my local KMart. With two screaming kids in tow- one a 1st grader and the other a baby, my charge card was declined. I made the cashier try it again and again, till she finally accepted a personal check! It was my Scarlett O’Hara moment- with God and all the fed-up customers behind me in line as my witnesses, I vowed not to be broke again. I was gonna do something about it. I am not a business woman; I am not an inventor, I am not an interior designer…although I now play these characters at work.

What followed was a string of common sense – not business sense – decisions involving guerilla marketing (imagine taking your product into a store that does not sell your product, then video taping employees and would be customers talk ing enthusiastically about your product and then sending it to the buyer!), self-promotion, incredibly funny but true experiences with clients, consultants, a White House Chief of Staff and a DEA Agent; tons of failure, chocolate and self-doubt leading me to adopt a split personality named Celia who posed as my assistant (although it was always me)… and… ultimately success. This is the short version.

Flash forward to today. I run the DC area’s busiest interior design firm. I published a design book with Penguin/Alpha and my work has been featured in almost every top 50 daily. I coach women entrepreneurs all over the country and on a national TV show (for free). I am writing The Jewish Mother’s Guide to Business with Steve Harvey. I have a patent-pending household tool and am meeting with corporate buyers at Lowe’s and Sam’s Club to retail it for me. I run a furniture company and sell to major universities, the Smithsonian and moms who live with slobs like me. Best of all, I am franchising my design business- Designing Solutions. Where two other design franchises have failed already…I have a formula for success. Me.

What do you like best about the profession?

Somewhat flexible hours- especially early on when my kids were young. I have discovered that I like to be in control of my own destiny.

What skills are most important for an interior designer?

Communication, customer service, good taste, common sense and confidence.

What is the most challenging thing about being an interior designer?

Most designers are competitive with one another and a bit snobby. So it’s hard to be good friends with other designers. I have a few- but not as many as I should after 18 years. Sure, I know a lot of designers, but we are not good friends…just business acquantainces.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing a career in interior design?

  1. Customer Service: No matter how great your talents, you must be able to focus on service. Clients want to be made to feel that nothing is more important than their project. Design school doesn’t teach how to make a client happy. Interior designers are a luxury- the experience should feel luxurious and that comes with learninghow to make the client happy.
  2. Communication: You must be able to convey your creativity and passion in writing and in person. It’s amazing to me how little emphasis is placed on a well written proposal or the ability to give an exciting “I want that!” oral presentation to clients. You have to sell the sizzle, not just the steak!
  3. Confidence: This is the difference between “I think this $7000 love seat will fit in your study nicely” and “This is THE love seat for that study. They are made for each other.” Your client didn’t hire you to guess. Your client hired you to KNOW! Project confidence; behave professionally; speak with authority; be the expert. There are a lot of great designers out there. The ones that rise to the top know that a good designer is more than great designs.

Now add to this that it takes long hours, hard work and courage to put yourself out there and do it alone.

Jane Grosslight | Founder of Durwood Publishers and

Jane Grosslight | Founder of Durwood Publishers and

Lighting Designer for 25 years

Why did you decide to get into the field of lighting design?

I’m not sure I chose it; it may have chosen me. My married name is Grosslight. My husband’s great, great grandfather designed a carriage lantern that had a cylinder with a sprig in it to hold a candle always in front of the reflector. Thus as the carriage jogged along, the light was always bright. Hence, gross light or big light. People say that last names are magical. I think my married name was magical for me.

How did you get into the profession?

I fell into it. My bachelor’s degree was in experimental psychology—a good basic for science and working with people. My master’s degree was in urban planning—good for the broad prospective. My in-between university study was architectural design—very good for design of any kind.

What do you like best about being a lighting designer?
I am passionate about saving energy and making the technology advances in lighting usable for professionals and the general public.

What skills are most important for the profession?
Care for details.

What is the most challenging thing about being a lighting designer?

Coping with the manufacturers’ information on their website. When information was in catalogs, it was easily accessible. Not so any more. Manufacturers’ websites contain their pet names for their products which mean nothing. It is manufacturers’ candy. And candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker and liquor is a straight “shot” to information needed, which is not readily available.

Likewise, their search boxes are blind to generic searches, which wastes lighting specifiers’ time, for which we cannot charge the client. Overall, lighting manufacturers are from Venus and lighting specifiers are from Mars and interplanetary probes fail. “Houston , we have a problem!”

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing a career in lighting design?

Make sure what you intend to do professionally is your passion. Then, work is a joy not drudgery!

Pamela Mattson McDonald

Pamela Mattson McDonald

Architectural Ceramic Designer and Manufacturer

Why did you decide to get into ceramic design?

I was initially attracted to architecture. I have a love of designing spaces, which enhance the enjoyment of working or home keeping. However, an internship alerted me to the amount of sedentary activity I would have to complete at a desk designing and calculating. I realized I was attracted to the details of building by a chance encounter in a library of a book on a past ceramics company in California called Gladding & Mc Bean. I got an idea to learn how to make the “architectural jewelry” of a building, sinks, tile, fireplace fronts, lamps, furniture, columns and if I was lucky, caryatids.

How did you get into the profession?

I started studying architecture at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. I switched after three years to The N. Y. State College of Ceramics at Alfred University for a focused curriculum on ceramic technology and design. I graduated after two and a half more years with a B.F.A. Additional business courses were taken five years later at the Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon.

What did you like best about the profession?

The creativity, the process and making people happy in their home, work or city environments with attractive facades and furnishings.

What skills are most important for a career in ceramic design?

Primarily, creative problem solving, drawing, composition, painting, chemistry, physics and math. Resilience and courage play a part as well as marketing and sales skills.

What is the most challenging thing about being in the field of ceramic design?

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s men’s reactions of women interacting with and coming into the building trades. I had plans stepped on and dirtied by a foreman’s boot. Building owners threating to fire the tile setters who wouldn’t set my tile because I was a woman and “couldn’t possibly know how to make a quality tile product.” I dealt with customers that were afraid of color. And if they were interested in anything besides white, it had to be a pale color.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing a career in ceramic design?

Work hard towards your vision and learn the periodic table. Use both sides of your brain and have fun doing it.

Sheryll Jackman, Founder of The Jackman Group and

Sheryll Jackman, Founder of The Jackman Group and

Interior Designer of 28 years

Why did you decide to get into the field of interior design?

Algebra? So-so. Geometry? Yes! Spatial equations – shape, size, scale, balance, symmetry- always seemed to come naturally to me. I could sense when a composition was “right” and when it felt out of sync.

Interior Design is not about ‘Decorating’. It is about creating pleasing compositions.

Using lighting, texture, compatibility of shapes, sizes, and color to form an emotional reaction from those experiencing the space is what Interior Design is all about.

I was always attracted to finding a solution to composing a three dimensional space that appealed to all of the human senses. Much like creating a Symphony or piece of Art, environments need to elicit positive reactions from those experiencing them.

The sheer joy of eliciting these positive responses is quite rewarding.

How did you get into the profession?

While in High School, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Interior Design.

Like many Universities at the time, San Diego State had no Interior Design Department. The closest major was Home Economics!

While I was unable to complete courses at that time, several years later I was fortunate to be able to attend the Design Institute of San Diego. I completed the three year program, winning local and regional ASID Student Compositions, served as the ASID Student Chapter President, the Southern California Regional Vice-President, and upon graduating was selected by my class mates as ‘Valedictorian’.

During this same period, I was engrossed in everything having to do with the built environment. I passed the State General Contractors License exam as well as becoming licensed as a Real Estate professional.

What skills are most important for a career in interior design?

Listening and asking the right questions! Without really exploring your client’s goals, you can never successfully create an environment that ‘works’ for them. You need to listen to what is said as well as perceive subliminal emotional elements about your clients in order to give them the results they seek.

The most successful projects are those that my clients feel ‘they designed’. When they tell people that everything was their idea and that they simply gave their Interior Designer direction- that is a true success!

What is the most challenging thing about being an interior designer?

The public’s perception of an Interior Designer is of someone who simply chooses furniture, fabrics, colors etc. They have no idea that to become a professional Interior Designer today requires a degree taking 5 years of study in Interior Architectural Design, Lighting, Psychology, History of art and Architecture among others, and a two year internship, the passage of a National Qualifying Exam (the NCIDQ, a two day exam required by many states in order to practice professionally and use the designation Interior Designer)

Anyone can call themselves a Designer and the profession, at least in residential design, is not treated as a profession by most media today.

The realization that almost every space the public experiences, i.e. Hospitals, Resorts, Dental Offices, Retail establishments, etc. are designed by professional Interior Designers who must take into account every minute detail regarding the use of the space somehow escapes recognition

A little more respect would be appreciated!

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing a career in interior design?

Specialization! By becoming an expert in one area of the profession, i.e. Hospital Design, Hotel Design, Commercial space design, Retail Design, etc. they will be perceived as a professional by those seeking their services.

If Residential is your passion, you must promote yourself continually. No one else is going to do it for you!

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