A Career as an Interior Designer

Career Goal: Interior Designer

Katie Wheeler

Career Overview

Interior designers plan and design spaces and furnish interiors.

Interior designers may design and furnish the interior of:

  • Private homes
  • Public buildings
  • Commercial buildings
  • Boats
  • Planes

They also plan additions or remodels to homes or other buildings. Some specialize in designing kitchens or baths.

Interior designers meet with clients to learn what they want. They consider the client's tastes, budget, and safety needs. They also consider how the space will be used and whether it should be remodeled. They measure the space so they know the exact dimensions. They must consider local building codes and standards for access to public buildings.

Interior designers draw sketches for the client. These include plans for interior remodeling, furnishings, lights, and finishing touches such as color. Interior designers may use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to print a proposed design. When the client accepts the design, interior designers create a detailed plan with an estimate of the costs and materials.

Interior designers must submit the plan to government agencies if it involves major remodeling. When the plan gets final approval, designers may oversee the subcontractors who do the work. They may hire people who install carpet or light fixtures, or paint and hang wallpaper. Designers may also select and purchase furnishings and artwork. Interior designers who work for large firms may also supervise assistants.

Career Skills and Interests

Interior designers need to:


  • Listen to others, understand, and ask questions.
  • Read and understand written information.
  • Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.

Reason and Problem Solve

  • Think of new ideas or original and creative ways to solve problems.
  • Understand new information or materials by studying and working with them.
  • Identify problems and review information. Develop, review, and apply solutions.
  • Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
  • Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.
  • Combine several pieces of information and draw conclusions.
  • Develop rules or follow guidelines for arranging items.
  • Judge the costs and benefits of a possible action.
  • Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.

Use Math and Science

  • Use math skills to solve problems.

Manage Oneself, People, Time, and Things

  • Decide how to spend money to get the work done and keep track of how the money was used.
  • Manage the time of self and others.
  • Check how well one is learning or doing something.

Work with People

  • Persuade others to approach things differently.
  • Look for ways to help people.
  • Be aware of others' reactions and change behavior in relation to them.
  • Use several methods to teach others how to do something.
  • Solve problems by bringing others together to discuss differences.

Work with Things

  • Install equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.
  • Analyze needs and requirements when designing products.
  • Determine the causes of technical problems and find solutions for them.
  • Determine the tools and equipment needed to do a job.
  • Design equipment and technology to meet user needs.

Perceive and Visualize

  • Imagine how something will look if it is moved around or its parts are rearranged.
  • Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.

Interior designers are people who tend to:

  • Consider achievement important. They like to see the results of their work and to use their strongest abilities. They like to get a feeling of accomplishment from their work.
  • Consider independence important. They like to make decisions and try out ideas on their own. They prefer jobs where they can plan their work with little supervision.
  • Consider relationships important. They like to work in a friendly, non-competitive environment. They like to do things for other people. They prefer jobs where they are not pressured to do things that go against their sense of right and wrong.
  • Consider good working conditions important. They like jobs offering steady employment and good pay. They want employment that fits their individual work style. They may prefer doing a variety of tasks, working alone, or being busy all the time.
  • Consider recognition important. They like to work in jobs which have opportunities for them to advance, be recognized for their work, and direct and instruct others. They usually prefer jobs in which they are looked up to by others.
  • Have artistic interests. They like work activities that deal with artistic forms, designs, and patterns. They prefer work which allows for self expression.
  • Have enterprising interests. They like work activities that involve starting up and carrying out projects, especially in business. They like to lead and persuade others, make decisions, and take risks for profit.

Working Conditions

In a typical work setting, interior designers:

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Have a medium level of social contact. They work closely with clients and may supervise assistants.
  • Communicate by telephone and in person on a daily basis. They use letters, memos, and e-mail, but less frequently.
  • May on occasion deal with unpleasant or angry people. Clients and vendors may disagree on results or scheduling changes.
  • Are responsible for work outcomes and the results of vendors and contractors.
  • Often work as part of a group or design team.

Physical Work Conditions

  • Nearly always work indoors. May on occasion work outdoors.
  • May share the same office or work space with other workers.

Work Performance

  • Must be very exact in their work. Errors could cost clients money.
  • Regularly make decisions that strongly impact their company's reputation and finances.
  • Make decision that affect clients and vendors on a daily basis. They rarely consult a supervisor before deciding a course of action.
  • Set most of their daily tasks and priorities without consulting another.
  • Work in a moderately competitive environment. They abide by strict weekly deadlines.


  • Most work full time. Some do freelance work part time as a second job.
  • May adjust their work day to meet clients' schedules. They sometimes meet clients on evenings or weekends.
  • Generally work under deadlines and may work overtime to finish a job. Otherwise, they typically work a set schedule.

Career Wages and Outlook

Many interior designers do freelance work. This may be full time, part time, or in addition to a salaried job in another occupation.

Wages vary by industry. Interior designers who work for engineering and architectural firms tend to earn higher wages than those who work for home furnishing stores or other business services. Wages vary by area of the country.

MN Hourly Wage: $20.18

MN Yearly Wage: $41,970

Much of the demand for interior designers will be to decorate private homes, restaurants, offices, and retail businesses. In addition, rapid growth of the elderly population should create a demand for designers of care facilities.

Competition for jobs is expected to be strong. Many talented people are attracted to careers as designers. People with little or no formal training in interior design will find it hard to establish a career.

Career Related Occupations

The occupations listed below may have similar work duties, use similar skills, be in the same career ladder, have a similar level of education, or be related in another way.


Program of Study - Interior Design

Program Overview

Interior design programs teach people to plan and design indoor spaces.

Interior design programs include topics such as:

  • Design and furnishing of interior spaces
    •Computer applications
    •Interior lighting
    •Basic structural design
    •Building codes and inspection regulations
  • Students learn to design residential, commercial, and institutional indoor spaces. They also study the historical and sociological developments in interior design.

    Program Admission

    You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

    You must also submit a portfolio of recent and original work. Portfolio requirements and guidelines vary from program to program. However, typically, your portfolio should contain drawings from three-dimensional sources.

    You may be able to apply to an undergraduate program without a portfolio. Some schools allow you to apply to their college or university as an undecided major. Then, after completing certain prerequisite studio art courses, you can apply to enter the program.

    Most colleges also require good scores on one of the following:

  • American College Testing (ACT) exam
    •Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
  • Below is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:

  • Introduction to Business
    •General Computer Applications
    •Computer Graphics
    •Home Furnishing
    •Drafting, Architectural
    •CAD Design and Software
    •Blueprint Reading
    •Art History
    •Drawing and Painting
    •Computer-assisted Art
    •Art Portfolio
    •Home Furnishings Production
  • Typical Course Work

    This undergraduate program typically includes courses in the following subjects:

  • Art History
    •AutoCAD (Computer-Aided Design) for Interior Design
    •Building Systems
    •Computer Drafting Studio
    •Contract Design Studio
    •Drafting Studio
    •Foundation Drawing
    •Furniture Design Studio
    •History of Furniture and Architecture
    •Human Factors in Ambient Environment
    •Interior Codes and Construction
    •Interior Design Communications
    •Interior Design Studio
    •Interior Materials and Finishes
    •Perspective and Rendering
    •Residential Design Studio
    •Three-Dimensional Design
    •Two-Dimensional Design
    •Workplace Design
  • Course work in master's degree programs varies, depending on whether the program is first- or postprofessional. As a first-professional graduate student, you have to complete a set of foundational art courses similar to many of the courses listed above. In addition, you would take advanced courses that explore in greater depth certain fundamental topics in interior design. These topics might include lighting, human factors, and marketing and contracts issues. As a postprofessional graduate student, your work is usually very individualized, depending on your interests and preferences.

    In both first- and postprofessional programs, you complete a thesis and continue to add to and refine your professional portfolio. Because a thesis is research-oriented, you also take courses in statistics and research methodology.

    Some programs include internship opportunities in their curriculum. This gives you the opportunity to experience the operations and procedures of a design business while applying your classroom skills. You also get the chance to make contacts within the field. As examples, you could help plan the kitchen and bath design plans for a residential home or help lay out the plans for the interior of a church.

    Related Programs

    Schools that Offer my Program of Study

    Alexandria Technical and Community College

    University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

    St. Catherines

    College Choice

    University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

    College Info

    Size and Location: 51,853 people located in Minneapolis MN

    Admission Requirements: Application in by the deadline with a $55 fee. You also need to submit your ACT score with the writing test and have at least a 2.0 GPA.

    College Expenses: $22,032 for tuition, room, and board plus $1,000 for books..

    Financial Aid: FAFSA and U Promise Scholarship.

    Housing: On campus housing, 14 meals included per week.

    Activities: Over 600 clubs and organizations with most athletic programs offered.

    Informational Interview

    I interviewed a Commercial Interior Designer that works at an Architecture Company. She was really nice and informative. She showed me some of her blueprints, her sample books, and some pictures from past projects of hers. I learned more about this career and what a Commercial Interior Designer does. I liked that you don't always work in an office, you get to travel a little bit. I don't have any concerns with this career, but an advantage is that you get to work on a team. You also get to be creative and design things which I like. I think that I would enjoy having my career be Interior Design.

    Plans to Reach your Goal

    I plan on working hard and doing my best in school. After I graduate from college and get certified I will hopefully get a descent job or internship to start off at and hopefully the rest will follow.