How to Become an Interior Designer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interior designers create indoor spaces that match appearance, budget and functionality briefs according to the needs of their clients. These designers are creative and pragmatic, with extensive knowledge of materials and decor and an understanding of designing a space. Discovering how to become an interior designer can provide those interested in decorating, design and buildings a way to plan their career path into the field. In this article, we discuss how to become an interior designer, what they do, the relevant skills they use and answer some frequently asked questions about the profession.

How to become an interior designer

Working in this field requires a thorough knowledge of design, business and functionality principles, so tertiary education can help an individual to become an interior designer. Most interior design courses offer a combination of practical experience and theoretical knowledge to deliver robust training. Below we outline a step-by-step guide on how to become an interior designer:

1. Complete a qualification

Aspiring interior designers can complete a diploma or bachelor degree to learn the foundational knowledge and techniques of the field. You can choose to undertake a Diploma of Interior Design at various TAFE institutes or colleges around the country. This course teaches the technical skills and understandings of the process to create interior spaces for clients. Diplomas can take between 18 months and three years to complete and usually involve practical placement experience.

Another option for budding interior designers is to complete a Bachelor of Interior Design or Bachelor of Design (Interior Architecture). Bachelor degrees are more advanced than diploma courses and typically take three years of full-time study to complete, including practical work experience. Students learn to reassess the interior of residential, commercial and public spaces. This course can adequately equip you with spatial and interior design principles to begin working in the field.

2. Gain experience and build your portfolio

Interior design work is considered a creative field that can be competitive to find employment and build your reputation. Gaining experience in interior projects, whether paid or unpaid, can help you display your skills and knowledge to prospective employers. Try volunteering your services to your friends and family or any other clients you can find that require an interior specialist. You can also search for freelance projects and find small paid projects of your own.

When working on these projects, be sure to document your work, decisions and the final outcome with photographs. A portfolio could outline your work experience, accomplishments, skills, education and goals and prove your abilities. You can then begin to build a professional portfolio of your projects to help you land a role or start working on higher-paying projects. Maintain an accurate portfolio of your best work throughout your career in interior design, as it can help you progress your career into areas that interest you.

3. Consider a masters degree

When determining how to become an interior designer, consider if you want to specialise in an area of the field or work on developing your career by completing an advanced education. Interior designers have many specialisation options, including the film industry in set design, kitchen and bathroom design and textile design. If you want to pursue an advanced degree, consider a Master of Design with a major in your area of interest.

A master degree is also an excellent way for those who already have a bachelor degree in a related field to enter the interior design profession. Master degrees typically take two years of full-time study to complete and focus on design research, theory and practice. Students may be required to complete an extensive research project on a design topic and have the chance to work on creative projects with real clients.

What does an interior designer do?

Interior designers use their creative skills, design flair, and space functionality knowledge to create beautiful, practical, and cost-effective indoor spaces. They specialise in creating spaces for living, working and socialising among the community for various clients. Interior designs are knowledgeable on decorating and building materials, design trends, artwork and safety, to create their comprehensive designs. An essential part of their role is balancing clients' needs, budgets, lifestyles and aesthetics. The typical responsibilities for interior designers may require them to:

  • Communicate with clients to creative briefs against their requirements and budgets

  • Use their creative expertise to fulfil the brief

  • Create initial design, style and mood concepts for new projects that are suitable to architectural plans and colour themes

  • Source materials for the design, including furniture, fixtures, paints and artwork within the client's budget

  • Use computer-aided design software, such as AutoCAD or Photoshop, to develop professional design plans and drawings

  • Review the designs and drawings with clients, confirming the materials, finishes and lighting

  • Make necessary adaptations to the plans

  • Hire engineers, tradespeople, and building contractors to perform the necessary construction work

  • Submit drawings to contractors and project managers to ensure they can complete the work within codes and regulations

  • Assist in managing the project, ensuring contractors complete their work following the design plans

  • Create timelines and budgets for projects and monitor them throughout the process

Relevant skills for interior designers

Interior designers benefit from being creative and artistic and using their building and business skills developed through their education and training. However, interior designers also have a range of soft skills that they rely on to do their work efficiently and successfully, including:

  • Active listening: Interior designers use their active listening skills to communicate with clients and learn their requirements in-depth. As their end goal is to create a room that pleases their clients, active listening can help them develop a thorough understanding early for a successful project.

  • Communication skills: Interior designers collaborate with other professionals in the construction and design of their projects, as well as their clients. Effective communication skills allow them to share information quickly and streamline their projects.

  • Problem-solving: Design projects for buildings are prone to encountering problems that set the project back in time and budget. Interior designers benefit from problem-solving skills that help them analyse the situation and make good decisions that minimise the impact of problems on the project.

  • Business skills: Many interior designers choose to freelance and run their own business, using business skills to succeed. These skills include outreaching to prospective clients, negotiating contracts, bookkeeping, and managing their business finances. These skills help them obtain consistent business and get paid fairly for their work.

  • Customer service: An interior designer that works for themselves benefits from strong customer service skills. Keeping their clients satisfied and confident helps create a positive overall experience which can help the designer gain more work through referrals and repeat customers.

Frequently asked questions about interior design

Below you can find some frequently asked questions about working as an interior designer:

How much do interior designers earn?

The average salary of an interior designer is $78,138 per year. Their salaries are largely dependent on their past experience and expertise, which is typical for creative industries. The location, the type of projects they work on and if their clients are residential or commercial also influences the salaries of interior designers. Designers who work for themselves have a larger salary range, with the potential to earn more or less than the average. These designers can increasingly gain more business through repeat customers and referrals, meaning their salaries can increase faster than employed designers.

Is it hard to be an interior designer?

Interior designers apply their creativity to solve problems for their clients, which means their results and client satisfaction can vary. When interior designers are confident in their skills and experience, they may find it easier to create designs and complete their projects than designers who are early into their careers. However, with suitable education, training and experience, it's a profession that is achievable for many people.

What qualifications do you need to be an interior designer?

As interior designers can work for themselves, they may not require any formal qualifications as a portfolio and some experience could be sufficient to enter the field. However, qualifications such as a diploma or university degree provide crucial theory and knowledge to help them succeed in their career. Interior designers who aspire to work for a company and earn a salary are more likely to need these qualifications as employers are likely to favour candidates with formal education.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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