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Steps To Becoming An Interior Decorator

The Differences Between Interior Design And Interior Decorating


People often use the terms interior decorator and interior designer interchangeably, but these terms dont mean exactly the same thing. Before you resolve to become an interior designer or an interior decorator, you need to know the distinctions between these career goals and figure out which path is right for you.

Masters Degrees For Interior Designers

Interior design programs are also offered at the masters degree level. Like post-baccalaureate certificates, masters degrees in interior design may be used to prepare job changers for a successful career in the field or to advance and refine the skills interior designers already have.

Graduate School Specializations in Interior Design

Some masters degrees in this field are intended to advance a designers knowledge in a specialized area. Examples of specialized masters degree options in interior design include architectural lighting design, healthcare interior design and sustainable interior environments.

Professional-focused interior design masters degrees are often non-thesis programs, while Master of Fine Arts programs are more likely to require students to prepare a thesis of some sort.

Business-Focused Masters Degrees for Interior Designers

Some interior designers go to graduate school with a slightly different focus. The business side of interior design work is important, particularly for self-employed designers who, the BLS reported, comprise nearly a third of the occupation. An undergraduate degree in the arts or in design may not equip you with the skills to run and manage your own interior design business. Designers who want to strike out on their own or who have started a company but arent sure how to grow it successfully may decide to go back to school to better understand business.

Become A People Person

Spaces are designed for people to use, after all. Thats why so much of the success of a design plan comes not from how it looks, but from how much it fits in with the clients personality and lifestyle.

This applies equally to commercial and retail spaces that have corporate guidelines and brand values to abide by.

Developing an intuitive sense for what people would like is invaluable to your work, as is learning how to manage them and their expectations.

Clients can be indecisive or become difficult to work with. If you want to become a good interior designer, you need to be a good listener and pick up on clues on their personalities, tastes, and their satisfaction with how the project is progressing.

Communicate clearly and regularly, and deal with issues before they become crises.

Remember that the client has placed their trust in you and your vision, so its important to genuinely care about how theyll benefit from your design once its brought to life.

On the other extreme, bending to a clients every whim can result in a disjointed, impractical or unattractive scheme. A degree of firmness is needed when working with clients, since you are the expert in the situation.

In addition to clients, interior design also involves working smoothly with a variety of specialists like suppliers, project managers, graphic designers, marketers, as well as furniture, lighting and garden designers.

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Academic Paths For Interior Designers

Those in the field must possess creativity, technical proficiency, and business acumen to be truly successful. Thankfully, myriad interior design programs exist and instill these skills at every degree level. Interior design programs are offered at the associate to doctoral level and professional certificates are also available for continuing education. Many degree programs provide an array of concentrations, allowing students to hone their skills on a specific area, such as kitchen design or environmentally sustainable materials.

The chart below can help potential students understand which degree best matches their career goals.

Do You Need Certification To Become An Interior Designer

Becoming an Interior Designer 2nd Edition

Interior designers do not necessarily need certifications to work in residential spaces. Some areas require interior designers to hold accreditation if they work unsupervised in commercial design. Other states only necessitate certification if designers use the title of registered or certified interior designers. About half of all states provide the option to become certified. However, regulations vary by state, and you should look at state laws to get a better idea.

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What Is The Average Salary For An Interior Decorator

Interior decorators earn around $16.06 per hour in the United States. Using the typical 40-hour week in our calculations, we estimate a US-based interior decorator earns $33,404 per year on average. However, you should understand that individual incomes will vary according to experience, location, client, qualifications and marketing expertise.

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Do You Need A Degree To Be An Interior Designer Or An Interior Decorator

Which of these two careers youre pursuing matters a lot. Generally, you dont need a degree to be an interior decorator, while you do need a degree to be an interior designer.

Even if a degree isnt mandatory, many interior decorators choose to earn one, most commonly from interior design schools or degree programs. Having a formal college education is a good credential for interior decorators to have and can help impress employers and clients. If you already have an appropriate degree as an interior decorator, youre well-suited to pursue an interior designer license if you decide to pivot your career path in the future.

Of course, the content of your education itself can also make you a better decorator. Earning a college degree in a relevant subject exposes you to theoretical knowledge you otherwise wouldnt have and trends and patterns you might not be aware of yet. As an example, consider the task of choosing paint and furnishing colors You may have plenty of subjective opinions about room and furnishing colors and how they make you, personally, feel. However, taking a course in color theory lets you take your knowledge of colors to the next level by covering topics like the temperature and warmth of colors, saturation, tints, shades, lightness and more, as well as RGB and Hex codes for colors.

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Find Relevant Interior Decorator Jobs And Apply It

If you plan to organize a successful job interview, you must prepare your resume and portfolio at length before. Here are some instructive suggestions for you.

After you finish the step above, you can apply for jobs. Competition is high, so a high paying, professional job may not be easy to find. However, you can get started by working in a furniture store, design center, or local department store. When you have done some jobs which are related to decorating and visual merchandising will add to your experience and portfolio. And then this will help you find another job and broaden your career path inversely.

There is a wide range of career opportunities in the design field. The majority of decorators are residential designers, but many work in the commercial field, such as the hotel or restaurant industry. If you would like to specialize in these industries, you’d better consider additional education or experience.

Learn From A Professional

How To Become An Interior Designer [Without a Degree or Going Back to School]

Like many other jobs, the best way to start a career is to learn from someone with years of experience. You can take either a paid or unpaid internship or search for a full-time position as a beginner.

When you learn from and work under a professional interior decorator, you will immediately start learning the real ins and outs of the interior decorating world. You will do everything that is needed to bring a decorating project to life from its ideas and inception to the complete finished product for the client. Furthermore, when you learn from a professional interior decorator, you will be given a jump start into the interior decorating industry.

Learning from a professional will also give you real-world experience that you can use later in your career to get other interior decorating jobs, grow your client base, and add to your portfolio of work.

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Where Might You Work

Interior designers are found in a range of working environments. Wherever spaces need to be arranged for aesthetic or functional purposes, they can be found. Most often we think of interior designers working as sole proprietors or as owners of one-person LLCs, business people who work with residential or commercial clients.

However, interior designers can also work with larger real estate development companies. They might help create attractive schemes for homes in a new subdivision, or offices in a new skyscraper. Some might be employed by, or contract through, property management companies and thus work with commercial tenants to create the most pleasing and functional spaces.

As for your actual workplace environment, you could sit behind a desk using AutoCAD all day, designing retail or other space for far-flung locations. You could also spend time on construction sites or in clients’ living rooms, consulting on upcoming design projects. Many residential designers also spend a great deal of time perusing resale shops, hardware stores, and other sources of unique details to add to their client’s homes or offices.

Take The Ncidq Licensing Exam

After you’ve conducted proper research on all legal or professional requirements you may need, you can begin your licensing journey and take the NCIDQ licensing exam. NCIDQ certification involves three exams focused on building and construction, project coordination and building codes and case studies. There are 250 total multiple-choice questions besides the case study exam.


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Interior Decorating Education Requirements

If you have an interest in becoming an interior decorator, there are a few skills and competencies that are important to have.

This includes:

  • Understanding color theory, schemes, and distribution
  • Knowing how lighting, fabric, and flooring play a role in aesthetics
  • Mastering furniture, plant, and accessory placement
  • Recognizing how scale affects the dimension of space
  • Interpreting a customers wants and desires and
  • Sketching potential room layouts.

There are a number of ways in which you can learn these skills. While some choose to do an apprenticeship, others may take a course or do self-paced learning. Ultimately, the path you choose depends on your overall goals and your current level of knowledge. Here are some steps to take as you consider a career in interior decorating.

Keep Building Your Portfolio

Step Inside an Interior Designer

A quality, detailed portfolio is key to getting higher-paying clients. A portfolio is a printed booklet or digital compilation of relevant information about your work experience, accomplishments, skills, interests, education and professional goals. It is different from a resume because it provides proof of your abilities. Your portfolio should have several examples of your past work or projects. Take good photos of all of your work, keep your drawings and designs, and showcase all of it in a well-organized manner. Use your portfolio to gain more clients or prove your skills to a design agency for full-time employment.

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Earning Potential For Interior Designers And Decorators

Considering the differences in both the scope of work in these two jobs and the training required for them, it makes sense that interior designers can generally expect to make more money than interior decorators. According to the salary research website PayScale, the average salary for interior decorators in 2022 was $39,746, compared to $51,754 for interior designers. Interior designers reported average base earnings that were 30% higher than interior decorators. The median salary the BLS reported for interior designers as of 2020 was $57,060 per year.

This significant difference in earning potential offers a clear path to improving your income. If you want to make more and dont mind expanding your areas of consideration in your work beyond the scope of decorating for purely aesthetic purposes, one way you can earn more money is by getting the credentials to work as a full-fledged interior designer.

What Abilities Are Needed To Be An Interior Decorator Or Designer

Your innate sense of style is invaluable in fields like interior decorating and interior design, but it can only take you so far. You need other skill sets, including creative and technical skill sets, to excel in the interior design field. Through your interior design degree program, you can build up the skills you already have and learn brand new skills, both of which you can refine as you gain practical experience in your area of study.

Some of the skills needed for interior designers and decorators include creativity and artistic ability, visualization skills, technical skills, project management skills and problem-solving skills.

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Pathways To This Career

  • Complete a recognised certification, an undergraduate course in interior design or an interior decoration short course. Industry-based courses may give you an employment edge.
  • Advance your skills as an interior decorator through postgraduate qualifications in interior design or architecture.
  • Seek out assistant roles or internships to gain hands-on experience. You’ll be able to grow your expertise under the guidance of well-established, professional interior decorators.
  • Build a striking portfolio of your best work, your passion projects and small jobs. Appeal to design agencies or private clients by creating a professional website to showcase your work.
  • The Career Outlook For Interior Designers

    HOW TO BECOME AN INTERIOR DESIGNER vs Interior Decorator vs Architect, Online Interior Design Course

    The job outlook for interior designers is less than encouraging, particularly when compared with the average growth rate for jobs across the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that job opportunities for interior designers will show little or no change between 2020 and 2030, essentially reporting a 0% increase in jobs nationwide.

    Dont be too quick to let an unfavorable job growth rate stop you from becoming an interior designer. Even if most firms are unlikely to add new jobs for interior designers en masse over the next several years, individual jobs will still open up as established designers retire, change jobs or otherwise leave the workforce. Some companies will add positions, while others may downsize. Overall, the BLS reported that the number of job openings for interior designers each year during that decade is likely to be around 7,800.

    This disappointing job outlook is bad news for aspiring interior designers seeking traditional employment in the top employing industries for this role, which include specialized design services, architectural and engineering services, wholesale trade and furniture stores. Jobs in established interior design firm settings arent likely to be especially plentiful over the next decade. Unfortunately, this means that getting your first interior design job out of school may be challenging, since recent graduates often start out at design firms and gain experience needed to be eligible for licensure in these settings.

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    Do You Need To Go To Design School To Become An Interior Designer

    In order to become a licensed interior designer, a bachelors degree is usually required. The degree may be in any field, but your coursework should include interior design, drawing, and computer-aided design . Its not necessary to specifically go to a design school, as there are interior design degree programs available at the associates, bachelors, and masters levels at many colleges and universities. But it is critical to carefully plan a course of study that includes a range of design classes.

    Look for classes that cover a broad range of interior design topics. Course titles to look out for include:

    • Principles of Interior Design
    • Business Practices
    • Building Codes & Standards

    Be sure to take advantage of the career services department at your college or university. Nansi Barrie, a career advisor consultant and the former career services and internships coordinator at the New York School of Interior Design , advises, Work with your career services advisor and pinpoint your goals, so you can hit your target or come close to the sector of the industry you are interested in.

    Five: Network With Other Interior Designers And Decorators

    Networking will be your BEST FRIEND as you become an interior decorator and advance in your career. The home design industry is a pretty tight-knit community. It wont take long for you to meet and/or become acquainted with the other decorators in your local area, as well as contractors, suppliers, and other types of designers.

    But wait, you might be thinking, why do I need to become friends with other interior decorators? Arent they my competition?

    Yes, but in no way does this mean they arent also allies. Your career will be much better off if you establish positive connections with others in the community than if you tried to go at things completely solo.

    After all, by networking, youll be increasing your chances of getting referrals. Those in the industry who are not also interior decorators can collaborate with you on projects or send potential clients your way. Heck, even other decorators can do this for you . Proper networking cultivates a mutually respectful agreement of you scratch my back, Ill scratch yours.

    In the end, youll have a longer, more fruitful career if you network with other designers and decorators.

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    Traits Of Successful Interior Designers

    A good eye for design and aesthetics is a given for someone who is an interior designer at heart. But what puts the best designers ahead of the pack? Here are a few traits that successful designers possess.

    • Communication skills to work effectively with teams of engineers, architects and builders
    • Technical skills to use complex drawing software and read blueprints
    • Flexibility to work nontraditional hours and travel to design sites to meet with clients
    • Detail and precision skills for measuring spaces and creating drawings
    • Troubleshooting skills to minimize schedule delays and budgeting issues

    Can You Become An Interior Decorator With No Experience

    Step Inside the 2016 San Francisco Decorator Showcase House via ...

    Because interior decorating does not require a degree, it is possible to get started without experience. However, very few people will be willing to give money to someone with no proof of abilities or prior experience. With experience comes references, a portfolio, and a network to contact for different needs. Without it, the job may be much more difficult, and you and your initial clients may suffer as a result.

    If possible, search for apprenticeship programs where youre able to work under the wing of an experienced interior decorator who can show you the ropes and boost your portfolio and network. Another possibility for quick experience is to offer free services to your family and friends in which you work with them to design a space they love or even mockup a design online.

    Both of these scenarios can help you to gain experience without a degree or professional education. While it is not necessary to have experience before practicing interior decorating, it will make winning over clients a much easier process.

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