Interior Designers and Decorators


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Although formal training is not always necessary in the field of interior design, it is becoming increasingly important and is usually essential for advancement. Most architectural firms, department stores, and design firms accept only professionally trained people, even for beginning positions.

If you're considering a career as an interior designer or decorator, classes in family and consumer science, art history, design, fine arts, and drafting will prove to be valuable. Since interior design is both an art and a business, such courses as marketing, advertising, accounting, management, and general business are important as well. Take computer-aided design classes, if they are offered, because most interior and designers and decorators use such software in their daily work.  

Postsecondary Training

Professional schools offer two- or three-year certificates or diplomas in interior design. Colleges and universities award undergraduate degrees in four-year programs, and graduate study is also available. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) accredits more than 170 colleges and universities that offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in interior design in the United States, Canada, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as online only. Visit http://accredit-id.org/accredited-programs for a list of schools. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (http://nasad.arts-accredit.org) accredits approximately 360 colleges and universities with programs in art and design. 

College students interested in entering the interior design field should take courses in art history, architectural drawing and drafting, fine arts, furniture design, codes and standards of design, and computer-aided design, as well as classes that focus on the types of materials primarily used, such as fibers, wood, metals, and plastics. Knowledge of lighting and electrical equipment as well as furnishings, art pieces, and antiques, is important.

In addition to art and industry-specific areas of study, courses in business and management are vital to aspiring interior designers and decorators. Learning research methods will help you stay abreast of government regulations and safety standards. You should also have some knowledge of zoning laws, building codes, and other restrictions. Finally, keeping up with product performance and new developments in materials and manufacture is an important part of the ongoing education of the interior designer and decorator.

Art historians, people with architecture or environmental planning experience, and others with qualifications in commercial or industrial design may also qualify for employment in interior design.

Other Education or Training

Participating in continuing education (CE) classes is a great way to keep your skills up to date and learn about new developments in the field. Many professional associations provide CE classes, webinars, and workshops. For example, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) offers ASID Academy, an online learning management system that provides courses on the leadership development, impact of design, practice of design, and the business of design. It also offers business strategies courses for its members who own small businesses. The National Kitchen & Bath Association, International Interior Design Association, and other organizations also provide CE opportunities. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

A number of states require licensing for interior designers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Each state has its own requirements for licensing and regulations for practice, so it's important to contact the specific state in order to find out how one can apply. To become eligible for registration or licensing in these jurisdictions, applicants must satisfy experience and education requirements and take the NCIDQ Examination, which is offered by the Council for Interior Design Qualification. To prepare students for this examination, the council offers the Interior Design Experience Program. Program participants are required to complete 3,520 hours of documented interior design experience. According to the council, up to 1,760 hours of qualified work experience can be earned before education is completed.

The National Kitchen & Bath Association offers several certification credentials and badges for interior designers and decorators who specialize in kitchen and bath design.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Work for one to three years as an assistant to an experienced designer or decorator is typically required before achieving full professional status.

First and foremost, interior designers and decorators need to have artistic talent, including an eye for color, proportion, balance, and detail, and have the ability to visualize. Designers must be able to render an image clearly and carry it out consistently. At the same time, artistic taste and knowledge of current and enduring fashion trends are essential.

Interior designers and decorators must possess interpersonal skills to work with a variety of often demanding and difficult clients. They must also be able to communicate with contractors, architects, craftspeople, and other people who will be working on the project at different times.

Construction delays, late shipments, and client whims all arise and interior designers and decorators must possess problem-solving skills to keep the project going on time and within the budget.

In addition, interior designers need to be able to supervise craftworkers and work well with a variety of other people, including clients and suppliers. Designers should be creative, analytical, and ethical. They also need to be able to focus on the needs of clients, develop a global view, and have an appreciation of a diverse range of design styles. Finally, precision, patience, perseverance, enthusiasm, and attention to detail are vital.