5 Steps to Becoming a Residential Designer

Residential designers are trained to improve and transform spaces based on a client's needs. These design professionals work with contractors, landscapers, developers, and architects, and they are responsible for identifying a client's goal, budget, and space constraints through a consultation. Most prospective designers earn a bachelor's degree in interior design; licensure is required for interior designers in some states as well. Schools offering AutoCAD Drafting & Design Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Residential Designer?

A residential designer is an interior designer who specializes in working on residential properties. Their goal is to develop a pleasing, safe and functional space for the occupants, and they do this by meeting with clients to determine stylistic preferences and functional needs. They then incorporate paint, wallpaper, cabinetry, flooring, lighting and other elements to create a design plan for the residence. Residential designers may work on the design of apartments, condominiums, townhouses or detached houses. As of 2014, approximately 25% of interior designers were self-employed. In the table below, you can learn some details about a career as a residential designer:

Degree RequiredBachelor's
Education Field of StudyInterior Design
Key ResponsibilitiesWork with clients to design interior spaces, make decisions regarding wallpaper, paint colors, and cabinetry
Licensure RequirementsLicensure requirements vary by state
Job Growth (2014-2024)*4% (for all interior designers)
Median Salary (2016)*$49,810 (for all interior designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Career Duties and Education

Residential designers are often the masterminds behind design projects and the first to meet with a client. As stated by the name, residential designers work in the housing industry instead of in commercial, governmental, or institutional spaces. Residential designers are well-versed in the art of design, know how to solve problems, and are knowledgeable about building codes, lighting, scale, and space. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification outlines a range of tasks assigned to a residential designer, including the selection of fixtures, materials, and colors; the preparation of construction materials; and the analysis of clients' needs and objectives.

Education requirements are not uniform nationally, so not all states require residential designers to hold a degree to practice. However, obtaining an undergraduate degree in interior design makes for an easier transaction into the workforce.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

To begin a career in residential design, research interior design programs from accredited schools. A lot of colleges are also starting to offer online degree programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), earning a degree will give prospective residential designers the preparation needed for a successful entry-level career. In addition, most licensing boards require an undergraduate degree for certification.

Step 3: Locate an Apprenticeship

While proper schooling is recommended, residential designers show their design ability through experience. Entrance into an apprenticeship program, along with a bachelor's degree, qualifies most applicants. Apprenticeship programs for residential designers can range from one to three years. Interior design apprenticeships may be found through an online search, networking, or in your college's interior design department.

Step 4: Secure Employment

After gaining experience under a professional interior designer, residential designers may seek employment with a furniture store, engineering or architectural firm, developer, or homeowner. Working independently requires more experience and licensing, depending upon the state. Popularity of home improvement and design television shows has made residential designers in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that careers for interior designers are expected to increase 4% from 2014-2024.

Step 5: Earn Licensure

With formal schooling and an apprenticeship completed, residential designers are eligible for licensure. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) is recognized by 27 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The NCIDQ requires applicants to pass an exam, complete at least two years of postsecondary education in design and have at least six years of combined education and practical experience. In addition to certification, membership in the American Society of Interior Designers makes for a more desirable independent residential designer. The National Kitchen and Bath Association offers optional certifications as well.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Architects focus on the design of a building or structure. They are required to have a bachelor's degree. Industrial designers are also required to have a bachelor's degree, and they design products, such as toys, or manufactured goods, such as appliances. The work that architects and industrial designers do is similar to the work of a residential designer because they must consider the budget and intended purpose when developing a design proposal and work with their clients to modify the design until the product meets their approval. Graphic designers also focus on utilizing their artistic talents and computer skills to create images that may be used for marketing purposes, or visual images that convey an idea or meaning to the viewer. They may work in the development of the design of books, magazines and other printed materials. Interior designers may perform the same tasks as residential designers, but may opt to specialize on commercial properties such as malls, stores or office buildings.

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