Overview

Interior Designers are responsible for creating an indoor space into whatever the client wants it to be – futuristic, functional, sustainable, classically beautiful, artistic, etc. If this is the career direction for you, you will be creative and innovative with exceptional problem solving skills and a great understanding of space, color, and textiles. A bachelor’s degree in a design related field is a must and further training in textiles, drawing, and computer aided design (CAD) software will also be necessary.

In some states, only registered designers may use the title ‘Interior Designer’ and may carry out interior design work. Registration includes passing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and qualification for the program is based on a combination of related education and experience. Entry level work experience is sometimes available with established interior design firms, as are Internships and Apprenticeships, which can be great ways to get started.

To build a reputation for excellence you may need to consider a specialist area of design. This can vary from designing utilitarian bathrooms and kitchens, to specializing in sustainable materials or lighting. Your key skills will include drawing and presenting your concepts, effective communication with the client to ensure you have understood the brief, preparing final plans using appropriate computer software, identifying and ordering the appropriate materials, negotiation, time management and budget management.

You will need to have a good working knowledge of blueprints and a comprehensive understanding of building codes and regulations.

This is a competitive but growing industry as more and more companies, and even individuals turn to Interior Designers to make their space unique and notable. Homes, hotels, offices, hospitals and schools all rely on creative and thoughtful interior design and the employment prospects are good.

Pay

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median salary for Interior Designers at around $50,000/year. This was the cumulative for all more generically-titled designers. Pay varies slightly depending on what industry the designer works in. To break down the sub-interior design industries further, Interior Designers who worked in:

  • Architectural, engineering and related services – $57,500/year
  • Residential buildings and construction – $52,700/year
  • Wholesale trades – $50,200/year
  • Specialized design services – $$48,000/year
  • Furniture and home decor design – $43,500/year

Salary aggregator site Payscale has similar figures with the median for all Interior Designers at around $46,000/year. Commission is a big part of many designer’s salaries, so this can greatly distort the yearly average, depending on the size and scale of the projects being  bid on.

Overall, on the high end of things some more reputable designers can make closer to the $90-100K per year mark, while entry level and design assistants can sometimes start as low as $26,000/year, depending on location.

Interior Designer Salary Statistics

2016 Median Pay$48,840 per year
$23.48 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationBachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNone
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 2016 58,900
Job Outlook, 2014-2024+4%
Employment Change, 2014-2024+2,200
Sources: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale

Industry Forecast

The interior design industry is expected to grow at around 4% between 2014 and 2024. This is slightly under the national average for all occupations combined which is around 7%. Around 5% of all interior designers are employed directly within the construction industry and are thus highly dependent on construction industry growth for their own job security.

Construction growth is then connected to the overall health of the American economy. As a result, designers find themselves at the end of chain of events that can improve or turn down drastically and quickly, depending on how the U.S. economy is doing.

Even with slower construction, however, older facilities will continue to need to be remodeled and updated, creating more demand for interior designers. Further, designers who do not work for construction companies, that is, more specialized, independent designers or those working for design-only agencies, are expected to grow at a more robust rate of 8% from 2014 to 2024, which is a whole percentage point faster than the national average for all occupations. This is largely due to increasing demand for the hospitality, healthcare, and commercial sectors.

Types of Interior Designers

While most designers are lumped into construction or architectural roles, there are nearly infinitely specialized variations of designers of interior spaces. From clinics and urgent care civil designers to airports and apartments, every type of sub-set has it’s own unique title and skills required to carry out the job. For example, a civil designer has to focus more on traffic flow, federal regulations, and often within much larger budgets than say an residential designer, who works with small family units, state/city regulations and much smaller budgets.

In case you are not sure what specific type of designer you are, you can check out this excellent careers page from the Design Institute of San Diego for a better idea. While there is no problem using the more generic “interior designer” job title, which society so readily understands in day-to-day interactions, it is best to be as specific as possible when conducting a job hunt and writing a resume that best matches a specific design position.

For example, many design firms can be quite focused in terms of the industries in which they operate, and thus will prefer candidates with more refined backgrounds over more generic. It is for reason you want to try to pinpoint your speciality when job hunting.

Besides just the industry, you will also want to specify your experience/seniority level in your job title; this way, the reader of your resume, cover letter or business letter will immediately know the type of applicant they are dealing with. This could be anything from Entry-Level Interior Designer to Project Manager to Design Architect, to Senior Project Architect or Design Director.  As with industry, the more precise you are with seniority, the better.

Sample Resume Download

Below is an example of a professionally written resume that you can download, print, save, or fold into a paper airplane. Remember this is only a reference, and you will want to write your own resume to reflect your unique professional background and skill-set.

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How To Write Your Own

Below are some design-specific resume writing tips for this profession that you can utilize when crafting your own resume.

Communicate Project Lifetime Skills

It is important to indicate to a potential employer that they are getting a complete package when hiring you, not someone who will need to be micromanaged through various steps of a design project. The best way to communicate that you will be able to excel with minimal “hand holding” is to write your resume in a way that communicates an ability to efficiently manage all aspects of a project from start to finish.

Essentially, you will want to be communicating your experience in project planning, budget forecasting, organizing proposals, project bidding, budget negotiations, project organization, team management and client relationship management skills. Imagine the process from client acquisition all the way through project completion and try to communicate how you excel at every one of the steps along the way.

Quantify Numerically

It is important to add scope to your project lifetime achievements by numerically quantifying whenever possible throughout the body of your resume. For example, stating budgets in dollar terms, or percentage terms of you can come in under budget, stating your client size, the total square footage of a project, or the size of the team you managed. These numbers give the reader of your resume a better grasp on the gravity of the accomplishment, not to mention drawing their eyes down through the entirety of your resume.

Talk the Talk

Embrace industry terminology in your writing. There will have to be a line drawn if you are a very specialized professional; for example, not everyone will know military acronyms if you worked for the government. However, mentioning things like “FF&E” , “layered design”, or your in depth knowledge of CAD are all to be expected of an experienced designer and will indicate you do not only walk the walk, but can also back it up with an intimate knowledge of your craft.

Sample Bullet Points

Below are a selection of bullet points and experiences that will be highly valued on a design related resume. Use these for inspiration, but avoid copying them verbatim as they are more generic than the talent you have and thus would not do you justice as they are.

Sample Interior Designer Bullet Points

Task
Confer with client to determine factors affecting planning interior environments, such as budget, architectural preferences, and purpose and function.
Advise client on interior design factors such as space planning, layout and use of furnishings or equipment, and color coordination.
Coordinate with other professionals, such as contractors, architects, engineers, and plumbers, to ensure job success.
Review and detail shop drawings for construction plans.
Estimate material requirements and costs, and present design to client for approval.
Subcontract fabrication, installation, and arrangement of carpeting, fixtures, accessories, draperies, paint and wall coverings, art work, furniture, and related items.
Formulate environmental plan to be practical, esthetic, and conducive to intended purposes, such as raising productivity or selling merchandise.
Select or design, and purchase furnishings, art works, and accessories.
Render design ideas in form of paste-ups or drawings.
Use computer-aided drafting (CAD) and related software to produce construction documents.
Plan and design interior environments for boats, planes, buses, trains, and other enclosed spaces.

Career Objective

The career objective is a short little introduction to your resume that should consist of just a couple of succinct sentences. You will want to communicate your experience level, which is why most start off with something like: “Talented Interior Design Architect with 8+ years of experience….”.

In addition to communicating experience, you will also want to clearly communicate the job title you are seeking. This would read something like: ” …of experience seeking a challenging position managing corporate accounts with B&T Design.”

Strung together a strong objective might look something like:

Talented Interior Design Architect with 8+ years of experience seeking a challenging position managing corporate accounts with B&T Design.

Do not worry about trying to cram your entire history into your objective; you have the entire body of your resume for that. The goal of the objective is to simply indicate to the reader this is definitely a resume worth digging into and definitely NOT one to disregard.

Additional Skills & Certifications

The additional skills section is where you start to differentiate yourself from similarly qualified applicants. List your up-to-date knowledge with the latest design softwares like AutoCAD, 3DS Max, Maya, Live Interior 3D, Archicad, or Chief Architect.  The more diverse your software knowledge, the better, as every agency and firm will have their own preferences and a pre-existing knowledge of tools will make on-boarding that much easier for companies, which increases your attractiveness as an applicant.

You will also want to indicate soft skills like problem solving, customer relation management, and team leading skills, as these are all required if a hire is to excel and advance in a company.

In terms of certifications, besides an educational background you could consider adding NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) certification or obtaining an online certification from an accredited educational institution like UC Berkeley, NY Institute of Art & Design, or New York School of Interior Design. These types of certifications can be achieved online even part-time while you are still working your day job and will greatly boost your attractiveness as well as give you leverage in negotiating a higher salary.

Useful Additional Skills to Include

Below is a selection of useful additional “soft” skills you can sprinkle in among your software and industry skills to create a balanced and well rounded skills section that will reassure employers that you are not only qualified but well-rounded and primed for growth within their company.

Useful Interior Designer Skills

SkillSkill Description
Active ListeningGiving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
SpeakingTalking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading ComprehensionUnderstanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Social PerceptivenessBeing aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Service OrientationActively looking for ways to help people.
WritingCommunicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Critical ThinkingUsing logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
CoordinationAdjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
PersuasionPersuading others to change their minds or behavior.
Complex Problem SolvingIdentifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Operations AnalysisAnalyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
MonitoringMonitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
NegotiationBringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
Judgment and Decision MakingConsidering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Time ManagementManaging one's own time and the time of others.
Management of Personnel ResourcesMotivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
Active LearningUnderstanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
MathematicsUsing mathematics to solve problems.
InstructingTeaching others how to do something.
Management of Material ResourcesObtaining and seeing to the appropriate use of equipment, facilities, and materials needed to do certain work.
Learning StrategiesSelecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
Systems AnalysisDetermining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
Management of Financial ResourcesDetermining how money will be spent to get the work done, and accounting for these expenditures.
Systems EvaluationIdentifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
Operation MonitoringWatching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Operation and ControlControlling operations of equipment or systems.
Quality Control AnalysisConducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
Technology DesignGenerating or adapting equipment and technology to serve user needs.
TroubleshootingDetermining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
ScienceUsing scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
ProgrammingWriting computer programs for various purposes.
Equipment SelectionDetermining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.
InstallationInstalling equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.
Equipment MaintenancePerforming routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
RepairingRepairing machines or systems using the needed tools.

Additional Resources

For more in-depth certification and accreditation details visit the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.

Get a full idea of what the average day-in-the-life looks like for this profession: