How to Become an Interior Designer

Posted September 23, 2021 by in Career/ Decor

For as long you can remember, you’ve always been fascinated by fabric materials and colors. You spent a lot of your childhood designing your bedroom. It might be destiny that you become an interior designer. 

You seem to have developed the first skillset needed to be successful with the profession. That’s the designer’s eye. You will need to bring a few more traits to the table. 

The best way to develop these skills is to go to school. Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know to pass your licensing exam and find work. 

Getting licensed is only the beginning of your journey. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to become a designer. 

What Does an Interior Designer Do? 

Before you get in too deep, it’s important to learn what an interior designer does. They perform a variety of tasks, from sketching the layout of a room to calculating design costs. They can act as a color consultant and make decisions on furniture styles.  

Oftentimes, the terms interior designer and interior decorator get used interchangeably. They aren’t the same, however. An interior decorator can’t design a room, but as the name suggests, they can decorate a space. 

Interior designers can do both. Interior designers have to take an exam and obtain a license in many states. Interior decorators don’t. 

Gather the Right Skillset 

There’s a certain skill set that all interior designers need to have. The first thing is the designer’s eye. This refers to the way that many people in the field interoperate different principles of design. 

They can look at a painting and get different meanings out of it based on the colors the artist used. You can develop this eye by paying attention to your environment and thinking critically about the designs you see. 

You’re also going to need some management skills. You’re going to be at the head of all design decisions.

There’s a lot of responsibility involved. You’re going to be communicating with vendors, working with business contractors, and striving to meet strict deadlines. 

You’ll do a lot of sketching by hand, but when it comes time to finalize a design decision, you’ll have to do that with a program. The school you go to will show you how to use these programs, but you will need to have some computer knowledge to apply what you learn. 

Get Your Education 

To get started with interior decorating, you’re going to need an associate’s degree. Some firms you apply to may want you to have a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s. 

Either way, your program should cover basic design elements, color theory, design lighting, walls and flooring, sketching, textiles, showroom procedures, business practices, and more. 

When it comes to choosing the right school, there’s a lot that you need to keep in mind. The length of the program and cost are a make or break for many people. 

Look for a school that’s been accredited by the National Council for Interior Design Accreditation. Doing so will qualify you to take your exam. 

Take Your Exam

To sit in for your exam, you’ll need at least an associate’s degree and have completed a certain number of work hours in your field. The test consists of three parts. 

The first is the Interior Design Fundamentals test. This part is available for those who completed their education but don’t have the necessary number of work hours under their belt. There are 125 multiple choice questions on the exam, and it costs about 295 dollars to take. 

The second part of the exam is the Interior Designer Professional exam. This is for those who finished both their education and work experience. There are 175 questions on the test, and it costs 350 dollars.

The third part is the Practicum exam. While the other two parts offer some kind of partial credit, this one doesn’t. There are 120 questions on the test, and it costs over 400 dollars to take. 

Take Small Jobs

Now that you’ve finished your exam, you can begin taking jobs. Most firms aren’t going to hire you unless you have some experience under your belt. 

To this end, we recommend doing a few free jobs for family and friends. This will provide you with some experience, and you’ll get the chance to develop your portfolio as well.  

Find a Mentor 

In any field of work, it’s necessary for you to do a little networking. Look around for an expert in your field that once walked in your shoes. 

They’ll give you a bunch of helpful tips and help you stay up to date with what’s going on in the world of interior design. Following their work will give you some inspiration as well. Be careful not to copy their work, though. 

Develop Your Portfolio

One of your most important assets as a designer is your portfolio. In it, you’ll need to include your best design sketches and color swatches. You’ll change up your portfolio as you get more projects under your belt. 

Make sure that you have both a hard copy of your portfolio and an online one. When you’re first starting, you can use a free computer template that will allow you to put all your images together. 

As you get more jobs, you’ll one day be able to afford to get a professional web designer to clean it up and make it look more professional. 

Becoming the Best Interior Designer 

If you’ve always had a fine eye for detail, you should consider becoming an interior designer. Getting to the point when you can open up your own firm will involve a lot of hard work. 

As long as you follow the road map we’ve provided, you’ll be able to prepare a portfolio that will impress any client. For more ways to succeed in the interior design field, check out our decor section!

Are you thinking about a career in interior design? Let us know in the comments below!