How to Become an Interior Designer: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

David Sprouls, president of NYSID, recommends doing as many internships as possible, in a variety of areas. “If you have a specific interest, definitely do an internship but be open and explore. You never know,” he says, noting that it’s valuable to be able to “test out” specific aspects of the profession before seeking a full-time design job. Internships allow you to take classroom knowledge and apply it in practical ways, while also learning how to navigate an office environment. Firms are more likely to hire candidates who have been exposed to aspects of the culture of a design studio before graduating and obtaining an entry-level design role.


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Again, rely on the expertise of career counselors to help you secure an internship that coincides with your areas of interest. But don’t be too hyper-focused on any particular subject at this point; instead, consider a wide range of interests within the interior design field. Keep an open mind to different aspects of the industry. You might surprise yourself: Maybe you think you want to focus on retail design, for instance, but hospitality ends up piquing your curiosity. In this early phase of your design career, it best suits you to have a broad base of experience before ruling out any possibilities.

In addition to internship experience, mentorship can also help ignite your career. The IIDA offers a national program that pairs more than 1,000 students with mentors annually. Headley explains how the IIDA mentorship program has evolved: “Students shadow a professional for a day, attending client meetings, presentations, learning about office culture, et cetera. It’s a glimpse into the working world and provides the opportunity for a valuable connection even after the program ends,” she says, adding, that “IIDA pivoted to a virtual mentorship program during the pandemic. This allowed students to be able to connect with a design professional and learn about the industry remotely.”

Master essential interior design skills

There’s more to being an interior designer than creativity, impeccable taste, and a keen designer’s eye. “Effective communication goes a long way in every aspect of a designer’s life, from landing the interview to getting the job and being promoted throughout your career,” Headley offers. “The art of storytelling is critical when it comes to explaining a concept or showcasing the design in the earliest stages. That is something that needs to start in class when students are presenting their projects.”

Organizational, time management, project management, and communication skills are all prerequisites for the job, as is some very specific technical knowledge. While mastery of drawing and perspective are fundamental for every interior designer, computer-aided design now is as well. CAD technology—in the form of computer software such as Autodesk AutoCAD, CorelCAD, SmartDraw, ARCHICAD, DraftSight, and CAD Pro, among others—allows you to render your design ideas in 2D and 3D models with proper dimensions, colors, texture, and other design details.

In addition to CAD, other computer software that today’s interior designers are expected to know include SketchUp, a basic 3D-modeling computer program; Autodesk 3Ds Max with its easy-to-learn interface for 3D rendering and simulating interiors; Autodesk Revit, which is highly technical in nature and created specifically for A&D professionals for Building Information Modeling to allow users to quickly make elevations, sections, and plans; and Infurnia, a feature-rich, complex interior design program. An interior design professional who is well-versed in these software tools will have a definite advantage over the competition.

Obtain proper interior design certification

At the moment, 28 states require licensure for interior designers, which includes passing the NCIDQ exam. NCIDQ is the most common interior design certification, recognized in the United States and Canada as a benchmark for proficiency in the profession. In order to qualify to take the NCIDQ exam, you must first earn an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree and complete a certain number of hours of work experience depending on the level of education. Comprising three parts—the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX), the Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX), and the practicum—the NCIDQ exam covers subjects such as construction standards, design application, building systems and codes, project coordination, and contract administration. You may take the first part—the IDFX—once you’ve graduated from design school even if you haven’t completed all the required work hours. The IDPX, meanwhile, is available to you once you’ve completed both your education and work requirements, and the practicum is the final exam. Fees for each part of the exam are paid separately.

How to Become an Interior Designer: Everything You Need to Know (2024)


How to Become an Interior Designer: Everything You Need to Know? ›

Interior designers need to know about the history of design, the structural integrity of buildings, local codes, regulations, and standards, anthropometry, ergonomics, spatial concepts, psychology, computer-aided drawing (CAD), ethics etc. Interior designers, like architects, are supposed to be the Jacks of all trade.

What do you need to know about being an interior designer? ›

Interior designers need to know about the history of design, the structural integrity of buildings, local codes, regulations, and standards, anthropometry, ergonomics, spatial concepts, psychology, computer-aided drawing (CAD), ethics etc. Interior designers, like architects, are supposed to be the Jacks of all trade.

How do I become an interior designer from scratch? ›

  1. Start with the Right Education. ...
  2. Learn the Tools of your Trade. ...
  3. Be Observant and Open to Learning. ...
  4. Take up Short Courses. ...
  5. Create a Stunning Portfolio. ...
  6. Seek Internships and Gain Work Experience. ...
  7. Freelance as a Designer and Take up Projects. ...
  8. Upgrade and Upskill.

What are the key skills needed as an interior designer? ›

Skills and knowledge
  • design skills and knowledge.
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail.
  • customer service skills.
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things.
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure.
  • knowledge of building and construction.
  • the ability to use your initiative.

How do you know if interior design is right for you? ›

An interior designer should have innate “people skills” in order to effectively communicate and collaborate with others, and they must be able to adapt to working with many different personalities. Working as a designer in home or commercial interiors also includes being detail-oriented and organized.

Can I learn interior design by myself? ›

“Certainly, you can learn about what interior design is and what interior designers do without a formal education, but, if your goal is professional practice, then embarking on that journey without a roadmap (formal education) makes for a long and potentially incomplete journey.”

What are 3 things interior designers do? ›

Interior designers make indoor spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting essential and decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They must be able to draw, read, and edit blueprints.

Is interior design a realistic career? ›

Interior designing is a highly lucrative business, but it takes some time to build a high income from this profession. Whether you are starting your own thing or have a job in some firm, your pay initially can be less, and that is one of the most prevalent disadvantages of being an interior designer.

Is it hard to succeed in interior design? ›

To get a better sense of what it takes to be successful in this industry, we asked six interior designers to weigh in on what their jobs are really like. One thing they all agreed on? It's hard work, but they absolutely love it. And it is that passion that helps when you hit road bumps along the way.

Can you call yourself an interior designer without a degree? ›

Some states require that interior designers meet certain minimum standards to be a residential interior designer, a commercial interior designer, or both. On the other hand, some states have no certification requirements at all, so you could call yourself whatever you'd like and practice however you wish.

Does interior design require math? ›

For interior design, the knowledge of mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication is a must. You can use them to figure out the dimensions accurately, plan the space requirements, and determine the cost of materials.

How many hours do interior designers work? ›

Interior designers typically work Monday through Friday, though some weekend and evening work is sometimes required. At larger interior design firms or in a retail role, designers typically work anywhere from 40-50 hours per week, though many work closer to 40 hours each week more consistently.

What are the five steps to become an interior designer? ›

From earning a degree to gaining work experience to taking an interior design exam, each step moves candidates closer to becoming an interior designer.
  1. Earn a Degree. ...
  2. Gain Professional Experience. ...
  3. Pass the NCIDQ Exam. ...
  4. Build a Design Portfolio. ...
  5. Get Hired or Start Your Own Firm.

What is the golden rule in interior design? ›

The rule states that for the most balanced, appealing look, you should choose a three-colour palette for decorating a room, and use it as follows: Decorate 60% of the room with the dominant colour. Decorate 30% of the room with the secondary colour. Use the remaining colour as an accent in 10% of the space.

How to interior design for beginners? ›

Here goes:
  1. Make A Budget.
  2. Create A Mood board.
  3. Choose Your “Springboard" (Inspiration) Object.
  4. Make A Room Layout Plan.
  5. Choose Foundation Furniture.
  6. Pick Paint Colors.
  7. Scale Up.
  8. Don't Over-Source Any Single Source.
Apr 12, 2020

Is interior design expensive? ›

Interior Designer Cost Per Room

If you include furniture purchases, the average room will cost you between $2,000 and $12,000, but if you opt for just the design work, expect to pay between $450 and $1,500 per room. Online interior design services will usually charge a flat rate based on the type of room.

Is it hard being an interior designer? ›

While working as an interior designer is a highly creative field, mastering the technical skills required can make being an interior designer hard. Designers often need to be skilled in sketching, digital imaging, computer assisted design (CAD) and 3D modeling.

Are interior designers worth it? ›

If you lack the time, design expertise or confidence to create an aesthetically pleasing and cohesive space, hiring an interior decorator can be worth it to provide professional guidance and the latest knowledge of current interior design trends.

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