Interior design is a creative and innovative profession. With diverse job responsibilities and opportunities for advancement, pursing a degree in interior design is a great choice for students with an eye for detail and a sense of style.
What is an Interior Design Degree?
An interior design degree comes in many forms. You can pursue a vocational license or an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. Many schools offer these programs either online or at convenient on-campus locations. Depending on your preference, you can major in commercial or residential design. Either way, both fields allow you to utilize your creative skills.
Commercial Design: Commercial interior design focuses on the planning and designing of public businesses. A commercial designer provides a range of office interior services to commercial clients. From decorating a hair salon to a corporate law firm, these designers have the ability to create a functional and stylish interior environment for their clients.
Residential Design: Residential interior design focuses on the planning and designing of private homes. A residential designer works with clients to create a space, or spaces, to suit their personal needs and tastes. Designers assist in the selection of furniture, draperies, wall paint, and other accessories. Some residential designers work with contractors to specify finishes and design details.
Some interior designers specialize in one design element such as kitchen and bath design or outdoor living spaces. Designers with an interest in technology can specialize in designing state-of-the-art home theatres, music or recreation rooms. The hospitality industry is another sector that offers jobs in interior design. Students can specialize in the design and / or renovation or hotels, restaurants, and resorts.
What Prerequisites Are Required for Interior Design School?
Each interior design program has its own prerequisite requirements. To apply for an associate or bachelor’s degree program, you’ll need a GED or high school diploma and possibly ACT or SAT scores. Letters of recommendation or personal statement might also be required. The admissions process varies by school and degree program.
Graduate programs might require additional prerequisites such as one to two years of professional design experience and a diploma from a four-year professional art school or a BFA, BA, or BS degree from an accredited college or university.
Some schools require a portfolio that highlights your creativity and interior design ability. If you’re just graduating high school and applying to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, your portfolio might include designs from art class or sketches that illustrate your design aesthetic. When assembling your portfolio, you’ll want to include your best and most recent work that effectively represents you as a designer. Portfolios are often the deciding factor when it comes to admissions, graduation, and future employment.
How Long Does it Take to Complete an Interior Design Program?
The amount of time it takes to complete an interior design program depends on the level of education you plan to pursue.
- Associate’s Degree: An associate’s degree in interior design often takes two years to complete. Coursework includes basic design, computer-aided design, drawing, space planning, and other related topics. These programs prepare graduate to work as assistants to interior designers at design or architecture firms.
- Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree prepares students to become a licensed interior designer. Programs provide a thorough education in all aspects of interior design including drawing, architecture, drafting, fabrics, and lighting. Students must also complete any general education courses required by the school. Once all criteria has been met, students earn an interior design license and are eligible to work as a professional interior designer (commercial or residential), project manager, set designer, and many other related positions.
- Master’s Degree: A master’s degree gives students an opportunity to hone their design skills in a specialty area. Students can focus on residential or commercial design or industry-specific areas such as retail or hospitality. Coursework focuses on technology and technique including computer-aided design. Students enhance their understanding of space, form, and function. With a graduate degree in interior design, students can explore executive-level jobs at leading architecture and design firms across the country.
It’s also important to keep in mind how much time you can dedicate to your studies. If you’re working full-time, taking classes in the evenings, online, or on the weekends might be necessary to fulfill the necessary requirements.
Interior Design Jobs – What to Expect
A postsecondary education is often required to work as an entry-level interior designer. Once you have completed formal training, working as an apprentice or design assistant will help you gain valuable work experience and develop contacts in the business.
Depending on your area of specialty, interior designers are responsible for a variety of job duties. Interior designers flex their creative muscles on a regular basis by creating unique and visually-appealing spaces for their clients. The most important skill an interior designer can possess is the ability to determine a client’s needs and wishes. Other key job functions include:
- Design custom furnishings and wall coverings
- Ensure optimal space management
- Create computerized images such as computer-aided drafting (CAD) to produce construction documents
- Implement and maintain budgets
- Present creative solutions to develop aesthetically-pleasing spaces
- Purchase furnishings, art works, and decorative accessories
- Collaborate with other design professionals to regarding space planning
An interior designer must know how to manage a budget and work within a specified timeframe. Clients often change their minds about design plans, and you’ll need to adapt accordingly. Sometimes plans are terminated due to budget constraints or remodeling efforts. The work is constantly in flux and affected by a number of factors.
In addition to these tasks, interior designs also help prepare construction documents and provide commercial and residential staging. Staging is the processing of preparing a house or a commercial property for sale. Real estate agents often hire designers to redecorate properties for sale.
Jobs in interior design are expected to faster than average, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, keen competition is expected given the increasing interest in this field. To keep ahead of the competition, complete or internship or enroll in an apprentice program to learn additional skills and gain more experience.
Where Do Interior Designers Work?
Interior designers work in a wide range of environments. Design firms, restaurants, offices, airports, hospitals, and retail stores are just a few of the many settings where you’ll find designers.
- Architectural and Design Firms: Design firms employ licensed designers to work with a variety of clients. Firms often specialize in a specific type of design or style from kitchen and bath to yard and garden. Working at a design firm is often the first step towards building a career in the field. You’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with skilled professionals and gain valuable hands-on experience.
- Retail Furniture Stores: Furniture stores also employ interior designers as an added service to their customers. If a customer is interested in purchasing new furniture for their living room, an interior designer might offer free or low-fee services to help plan and decorate the space. Some stores allow designers to make house calls or create customized computer designs to help a client visualize the plan.
- Self-Employment: Designers may choose to work as a consultant after gaining sufficient experience. Self-employed designers are often paid by the project or by the hour. Successful independent designers specialize in a particular field or service. If working for yourself is more your style, consider what area you’d like to specialize in and find a school that offers the right courses.
Interior designers often work irregular hours to accommodate clients’ schedules. The ability to work under pressure is essential as is flexibility and a can-do attitude. Clients hire designers who not only have an eye for detail but are capable of adapting to diverse and challenging assignments.
Online Interior Design Programs
Online interior design programs are growing in number and enrollment. Many colleges and universities now offer part-time or full-time online programs to accommodate working students. Whether you’re just starting out or pursuing a graduate degree, online programs provide the flexibility and convenience many students need.
Online courses enable students to complete all the required courses to become a licensed interior designer. The elements of design, decorating styles, lighting, and space planning are just a few of the many classes available online. Whether you’re interested in becoming a design assistant or a personal consultant, distance learning offers you the chance to continue your education while working a full-time job.