Interior Designers

Kellie Hanna, CPRW By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: May 25, 2023
designer looking at pictures and color swatches

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Schools and Education

What’s Needed:

  • A bachelor’s degree is needed in interior design or a related field such as fine art or architecture.
  • Coursework in computer-aided design is an asset as are business courses to help with budgeting duties.
  • Many designers go to schools to earn master’s degrees in the field.

What you study: Common study topics for interior designers include:

  • Computer-aided design
  • Art history
  • Design history
  • Design theory
  • Business
  • Architectural drawing

What courses you’ll take:

Below are examples of courses that you’ll likely take as an interior designer student.

History and Theory of Interior DesignInterior design views and trends through various historical periods; cultural influences on interior design practices; overview of the interior design profession as it stands today including space planning use of color and selection of furnishings and other materials.Introduce students to the development and modern structure of the interior design field.
Materials and ApplicationsTypes of materials used in interior design including various kinds of stone wood plastics and fabrics; sources and methods of production for these materials; uses of materials in construction and interior design; evaluating and purchasing materials with the appropriate aesthetics (look and feel) cost margins and functions for the job.Familiarize students with the material components of an interior design job.
Model Construction and PresentationApproaches to creating architectural models including sketching handcrafting miniatures laser-cutting and computer-aided design (CAD); materials and techniques used in drafting and crafting models; maintaining model accuracy; preparing and presenting models to clients.Ready students to assemble and display models for interior design projects.
Color and Lighting PrinciplesHistory of color theory; scientific principles of color and light perception; technical terms used in discussions of color; development of color schemes for interior environments; designing and implementing lighting layouts; natural and artificial light sources and their impacts on colors and textures.Give understanding of color’s role in interior design and of the effects of various lighting types.
Interior Design in PracticeLicensing and certification as an interior designer; day-to-day operations of an interior design business; writing proposals bidding on jobs setting budgets and schedules negotiating with outside contractors and managing a project from start to finish; marketing and expanding an interior design firm; legal and ethical issues in the field.Prepare students to assist in running an interior design company.

Video Overview


Briefly introduces the interior designing career. Produced for the US Department of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

Certification for interior designers varies by state but most require designers to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification examination. Visit the NCIDQ website for eligibility information. Interior designers who plan to specialize may opt for additional certification from trade associations or professional organizations; a certified kitchen and bath designer or lighting specialist for example can provide clients with additional expertise.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Interior designers need flexibility in their schedules. Because so much of their work involves clients they must be able to accommodate the clients’ schedules. Weekend and after-office appointments are common. Although most designers work full-time self-employed interior designers have more scheduling leeway and may work part-time.

Here are some of the top websites for researching a career in interior design:

  • American Society of Interior Designers  With state of the industry reports videos and an extensive learning library the ASID website is an excellent first stop for prospective interior designers. Visit the Student Lounge section to find information on becoming an interior designer resources on career development and applications for student competitions.
  • International Interior Design Association  This organization provides an international network of designers and design students with educational materials. The IIDA absorbed the Institute of Business Designers in 1994 and maintains a focus on business design but residential designers are also well represented. Qualifying students may find help from the IIDA to defray the cost of qualification exams. The forums and resume center are especially useful to prospective designers.
  • Council for Interior Design Qualification  This website is a wealth of information about the NCIDQ certification exam. Eligibility requirements testing supplies and webinars help students prepare for the test and focus their career aspirations. The Interior Design Experience Program gives entry-level designers valuable guidance in building their professional portfolio within a mentored program.
  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design  The NASAD site lists information about hundreds of accredited interior design schools. Students who are looking for a good educational fit will find resources to help them choose the right program for them. A search feature provides contact information and site links to accredited programs.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.


StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$57600$50K – $71KN/AN/A
ALBirmingham – Hoover$43190$20K – $68K1600.03%
ALHuntsville$39420$25K – $71K600.03%
ALMobile$40790$18K – $89K400.02%
ALMontgomery$37600$27K – $91KN/AN/A
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$37830$28K – $72K600.03%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$39580$27K – $72K600.02%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$51160$29K – $94K6800.04%
AZTucson$45920$24K – $81K1800.05%
CABakersfield – Delano$45490$29K – $80KN/AN/A
CAFresno$39700$30K – $71K400.01%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$59840$32K – $95K18200.05%
CAModesto$60080$21K – $91K400.02%
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$24270$21K – $67KN/AN/A
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$67900$41K – $86K1100.04%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$58420$29K – $93KN/AN/A
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$46700$33K – $76K2700.03%
CASalinas$43260$21K – $115KN/AN/A
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$59070$37K – $81K6900.06%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$69150$37K – $115K11400.11%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$61790$40K – $90K2100.02%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$64840$34K – $89K9300.07%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$66980$41K – $93K700.04%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$41310$33K – $88KN/AN/A
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$61240$37K – $95K600.04%
COColorado Springs$62170$33K – $73K400.02%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$47190$32K – $125K6200.05%
COFort Collins – Loveland$30320$25K – $67KN/AN/A
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$51590$34K – $110K3200.08%
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$60220$48K – $91KN/AN/A
CTNew Haven$51060$32K – $75K700.03%
CTNorwich – New London$48640$33K – $59KN/AN/A
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$55990$32K – $111K12000.05%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$58290$37K – $92K1000.03%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$35460$28K – $61K600.03%
FLCrestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin$27270$19K – $46K300.04%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$38860$21K – $101K3600.05%
FLJacksonville$46860$26K – $76K3100.05%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$40090$24K – $85K3900.04%
FLNaples – Marco Island$54130$31K – $109K900.08%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$31090$18K – $89K1700.07%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$31820$17K – $64K5600.05%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$47810$27K – $91K500.02%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$44710$28K – $72K300.02%
FLTallahassee$36240$27K – $74K400.03%
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$37140$26K – $66K3400.03%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$47260$29K – $92K2800.06%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$45410$26K – $75K13300.06%
GAAugusta – Richmond County$34650$21K – $60K500.02%
GASavannah$35630$22K – $82K900.06%
HIHonolulu$50750$19K – $87K800.02%
IACedar Rapids$36310$27K – $62K400.03%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$30910$19K – $57K400.02%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$44400$25K – $124K1100.03%
IDBoise City – Nampa$40220$24K – $66K400.02%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$56930$34K – $89K11500.03%
ILLake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)$26990$19K – $69K2800.08%
INFort Wayne$34580$18K – $66K800.04%
INIndianapolis – Carmel$43790$29K – $75K3400.04%
INSouth Bend – Mishawaka$35370$18K – $58KN/AN/A
INTerre Haute$51380$29K – $63KN/AN/A
KSWichita$45310$26K – $71K700.02%
KYLexington – Fayette$43120$24K – $62K700.03%
KYLouisville – Jefferson County$41600$27K – $62K1600.03%
LABaton Rouge$37020$20K – $58K700.02%
LANew Orleans – Metairie – Kenner$46240$28K – $62K1700.03%
LAShreveport – Bossier City$41370$33K – $58KN/AN/A
MABoston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)$60570$37K – $99K8300.05%
MAFramingham (Metro Area)$55650$42K – $81K400.03%
MALawrence – Methuen – Salem (Metro Area)$43660$39K – $59KN/AN/A
MASpringfield$39210$27K – $64K600.02%
MAWorcesterN/AN/A – N/A1000.04%
MDBaltimore – Towson$41870$21K – $72K5900.05%
MDBethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area)$46950$33K – $95K2800.05%
MEPortland – South Portland – Biddeford$37940$27K – $65K800.04%
MIAnn Arbor$43530$19K – $77K800.04%
MIDetroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area)$65300$30K – $74K800.01%
MIGrand Rapids – Wyoming$48780$27K – $65K1600.04%
MIHolland – Grand Haven$42550$26K – $63K300.03%
MIKalamazoo – Portage$30590$25K – $54K600.04%
MIWarren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$45420$28K – $76K2100.02%
MNMinneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington$42630$26K – $84K7000.04%
MNSt. Cloud$32300$26K – $52K300.03%
MOColumbia$52350$26K – $73KN/AN/A
MOKansas City$42200$25K – $75K3000.03%
MOSpringfield$18610$16K – $52KN/AN/A
MOSt. Louis$45840$31K – $84K4200.03%
MSGulfport – Biloxi$49840$38K – $61K400.04%
MSJackson$22780$19K – $65KN/AN/A
NCAsheville$33360$25K – $47KN/AN/A
NCCharlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill$47310$32K – $74K2500.03%
NCDurham – Chapel Hill$43560$32K – $66K900.03%
NCGreensboro – High Point$32330$17K – $53K2000.06%
NCRaleigh – Cary$40440$33K – $49K900.02%
NCWilmington$36380$32K – $46K400.03%
NCWinston – Salem$52710$33K – $82K1100.06%
NDBismarck$30880$19K – $45K400.06%
NELincoln$28900$16K – $60K900.05%
NEOmaha – Council Bluffs$45340$20K – $77K1500.03%
NJCamden (Metro Area)N/AN/A – N/A800.02%
NJEdison – New Brunswick(Metro Area)$51,460$31K – $73K2500.03%
NJNewark – Union (Metro Area)$48,580$30K – $89K2800.03%
NMAlbuquerque$37,940$20K – $74K1400.04%
NMSanta Fe$48,630$33K – $134KN/AN/A
NVLas Vegas – Paradise$42,990$21K – $91K2200.03%
NVReno – Sparks$43,720$27K – $79K400.02%
NYAlbany – Schenectady – Troy$55,920$31K – $84K900.02%
NYBuffalo – Niagara Falls$41,780$30K – $60K1100.02%
NYNassau – Suffolk (Metro Area)$44,470$35K – $87K3900.03%
NYNew York – White Plains – Wayne (Metro Area)$61,690$37K – $99K2,5400.05%
NYPoughkeepsie – Newburgh – Middletown$46,600$33K – $67K400.02%
NYRochester$42,920$33K – $69K800.02%
NYSyracuse$44,610$27K – $97K600.02%
OHAkron$42,350$27K – $68K600.02%
OHCincinnati – Middletown$43,550$25K – $70K3800.04%
OHCleveland – Elyria – Mentor$32,720$18K – $70K2900.03%
OHColumbus$61,250$24K – $132K2300.02%
OHDayton$42,950$27K – $80K500.01%
OHToledo$42,930$19K – $60K500.02%

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