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Commercial Interior Designer: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a commercial interior designer . Learn about job duties, education requirements, certifications, and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Commercial Interior Designer?

Commercial interior designers create artistic and functional designs for large spaces, such as office buildings, hospitals and airports. They often compete with other commercial interior designers through bidding to be contracted for a particular project. They then meet with their clients to learn about their goals and preferences. Commercial interior designers create sketches of their designs, develop a timeline and estimate costs. They select flooring, furniture, light fixtures and other furnishings they will use to decorate the space. They coordinate and oversee the construction of their project, and ensure that their client is satisfied with the finished product. Most commercial interior designers work with teams of architects, engineers and other builders to accomplish their project goals. The table below outlines the general requirements for a career as a commercial interior designer.

Degree Required Associate's or Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Interior design
Key Skills Artistic ability, creativity, detail oriented, interpersonal, problem solving
Licensure Requirements vary by state
Job Growth (2018-2028) 4% (for all interior designers)*
Mean Annual Salary (2018) $59,120 (for all interior designers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do As a Commercial Interior Designer?

As an interior designer, you would work to design and create spaces in which people sleep, eat, work and relax. Unlike a traditional interior designer, you would focus on large public buildings and spaces, rather than residential and private spaces. Your job would be to design spaces to accommodate certain functions, such as communication in an office, efficiency in a restaurant or comfort in a hotel. You would use blueprints and computer software to design both the layout of the space and the furniture and fixtures inside the space. You would work with clients to develop a design plan and then implement your designs by hiring the necessary contractors, keeping everyone on schedule and overseeing all aspects of the design process.

What Education Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), because of the level of knowledge involved, most interior designers hold an associate's or bachelor's degree (ww.bls.gov). The National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredit certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs in interior design. These programs may include courses in residential and commercial design concepts, art and architectural history, contracts and professional skills. Some programs may require you to submit a portfolio in order to gain admission. You could earn an Associate of Applied Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Science in Interior design.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Some states require that interior designers be licensed or registered, so you should check with your state for specific requirements. Because you'll need job experience to qualify for certification, you might consider the National Council for Interior Design Qualification's (NCIDQ) Interior Design Experience Program, an on-the-job training program for aspiring interior designers (www.ncidq.org). You could receive up to three years of training and mentorship services to help prepare you for the NCIDQ exam.

Eligibility requirements for the NCIDQ exam include six years of education and work experience, typically an associate's or bachelor's degree and up to 5,200 hours of work experience, depending on your level of education. There are three sections in the NCIDQ exam, including a section devoted to codes, a section devoted to design and a practicum in which you'll be required to complete a series of design exercises in front of a review board.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

Your earning potential depends largely on the level of education you complete and where you work. In 2018, the BLS reported that the highest salaries for interior designers were reported in the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Alaska, California and Arkansas. In May 2018, interior designers earned a mean salary of $59,120.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Architects, art directors and fashion designers are all some related careers that involve creativity and design. They also all require a bachelor's degree. Architects design and create plans for a variety of structures, such as houses. Art directors are responsible for creating a particular visual style for a publication or production. They maintain this style throughout magazines, movies and other forms of media. Fashion designers may design original clothing, footwear or accessories. They make their sketches and choose the materials and fabrics for their products.