Interior decorators and designers work directly with clients in homes, businesses and industrial buildings to improve the aesthetic and functional value of spaces. Read on to learn more about this field.
Interior decorating can be a fun and creative career choice for people with a knack for style. Interior decorators and designers spruce up the look and feel of interior spaces within private homes and public buildings. They spend their days adorning rooms with appropriate decorations, furnishings and other accessories that serve their clients' needs and desires. They also help businesses, hospitals and other types of commercial companies create workspaces that enhance comfort, safety and productivity. In addition to a creative edge, professionals need to possess solid business, technical and interpersonal communication skills.
Interior decorators often work for design firms or in stores that sell home and commercial furnishings. Interior designers are self-employed and work on a contract-basis directly with clients. In such freelance roles, they may spend much of their time networking and marketing their skills and abilities to find new clients. Some specialize in a specific area of interior decorating, such as kitchens, bathrooms or offices. A growing trend in the field is green or environmental designs that make use of sustainable and energy-efficient materials.
Many professionals use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create digital sketches and make changes as needed while communicating their ideas with clients. Interior decorating and design programs often provide hands-on training in CAD, along with instruction in fundamental interior decorating concepts, including fabric selection, light and color theory, accessories, space planning and business practices. A certificate or degree in interior decorating and design can also provide the credibility and advantage needed in this competitive field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected average job growth at 13% for interior designers for the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). Those who specialize in areas such as kitchens or sustainable design may experience the best job prospects. As of May 2013, interior designers earned median annual wages of $48,500, per the BLS.
While you do not necessarily need formal training to become an interior decorator, earning a certificate in interior decorating or a diploma could help you enter the field. To work as an interior designer or to become more competitive in the job market, you may need to obtain both formal educational and practical on-the-job training. The title of interior designer differs from interior decorator in that designers also apply technical solutions to improve interior spaces and must adhere to building regulations and codes.
Degrees in interior decorating and design are available through professional design schools, community colleges and universities. An associate's degree in interior design or certificate program can qualify you for work as an assistant to a professional interior designer or decorator. However, a bachelor's degree in interior design is usually needed to put you on the path towards an apprenticeship program.
Both the National Council for Interior Design Accreditation and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredit interior design programs in the United States. Apprenticeship programs typically last 1-3 years and take place in design and architectural firms or furniture stores. Earning a graduate degree in interior design is another way to update your skills and increase your competitiveness in the field.
Some states require interior designers to be licensed or registered to work on their own. Licensure typically requires a minimum of six years comprised of at least two years of college education combined with relevant work experience, as well as passing an exam administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (www.ncidq.org).
Regardless of licensure requirements, interior design certification can enhance one's standing in the profession. Optional certifications also exist for specializations in interior decorating. For instance, the National Kitchen and Bath Association offers several certifications for kitchen and bath designers and for educators (www.nkba.org). These credentials are available at different levels of education and experience, which may involve passing an academic and design exam.