How to Become a Kitchen Designer in 5 Steps

Kitchen designers use architectural, engineering, and design skills to transform spaces into efficient, safe, and beautiful kitchens. Some of these design professionals learn on the job and may get formal training at some point in their careers; others pursue degrees first. Schools offering Interior Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Kitchen Designer?

Kitchen designers are interior designers who specialize in kitchens. Their focus is to create a safe, functional, pleasing space for the use of their clients. Kitchen designers work with their clients to determine their needs and style preferences. The kitchen designer uses that information, the space available and any building limitations to create a layout of cabinets, appliances and other kitchen items required, such as an island or table, to ensure that the space suits the needs of their clients. They must also work within the budget of their clients, and try to incorporate their design and color preferences.

Step 1: Research Career Duties and Education

Kitchen design is complicated; just a few issues to consider are adequate space, traffic flow, safety hazards, energy efficiency, location, and layout, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA, www.nkba.org). Because kitchen remodeling is a large investment, homeowners frequently consult designers. Kitchen designers are more than decorators, since their work goes beyond surface appearance and takes interior architecture into account. Designers are aided by knowledge of blueprints, math, and computer-aided design (CAD). Depending on client needs, they may engage in ergonomic design, environmental design, or designing for the disabled, an approach called universal design. A two-year or four-year college degree, followed by apprenticeship, may not be absolutely necessary to obtain work in the field, but it's an important stepping-stone to professional licensing and certification.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

Many of the 323 schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD, www.nasad.arts.accredit.org) offer programs in interior design. To be admitted, applicants may need to provide their chosen school with sketches and other examples of artistic ability. Courses may include CAD, drawing, architecture, perspective, color, fabric, furniture design, ethics, and psychology. In addition, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) approves interior design programs offered by college and university departments of art, architecture, or home economics.

Step 3: Get Experience in the Field

With or without a college degree, it's necessary to get experience. Without a postsecondary degree, a person with a high-school diploma might get hired to work as a sales representative for a kitchen equipment or fixture company, a construction company, or a retailer, especially if he or she can demonstrate a flair for design; in this capacity, a salesperson may take on the role of designer. Designer-architects may be hired by kitchen design firms, whether or not they have kitchen experience. Those with interior design degrees can get documented work experience through the Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP), which is sponsored by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ, www.ncidq.org); such experience is necessary to get a license.

Step 4: Earn Licensing and Certification

Interior designers, including kitchen designers, require registration or licensing in many states, although licensing requirements vary by location. For those seeking licensure by NCIDQ, applicants must demonstrate that they have a minimum of six years of combined experience and education in the field, at least two of which must be in a postsecondary program. With or without a design degree, a person may obtain specialized kitchen-design certification from the National Kitchen and Bath Association. This certification requires two years of experience, including one year of kitchen and bath industry experience, and, in some cases, one year of formal, postsecondary education. In addition, applicants need 30 hours of NKBA training or its equivalent and a passing score on the accompanying exam. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions on kitchen and bath knowledge, is completed in three hours and covers topics including products and materials, mechanical systems, and business management.

Step 5: Keep Learning on the Job

Those working in the industry will benefit by learning CAD and blueprint reading, building and fire codes, basic architecture, and engineering. Working kitchen designers also need to keep abreast of changing styles and hone their time management and sales skills.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Interior designers perform the same functions as kitchen designers, although they may be involved in the design of all the rooms in the house, or specialize in the design of a different room or structure. They need to have a bachelor's degree. Industrial designers use their artistic skills to create or design products, toys, and manufactured goods, such as appliances. They need a bachelor's degree before entering their career field. Architects focus on the design of a building or structure, and need to have awareness of building codes, structural considerations, materials and budgets. They can prepare for their career by completing a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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