Interior Design School and Career Guide for Students

Interior design is a fascinating field on its own. It is described as the art and science of enhancing the interior of a building so as to achieve a much healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the people using the space. In other words, interior design is very multifaceted as it deals with various fields, particularly aesthetics, science, and business, all at the same time. And with this, it is safe to say that interior design is a unique form of art. And it is no wonder that it’s becoming such a flourishing industry as of now.

Understandably, since the interior design is becoming more popular nowadays, more people are aspiring to pursue a career in this field as well. And it’s not just because working as an interior helps them combine their artistic skills with their business acumen. But it’s also because working as an interior designer just seems so much fun. They get to be creative, and they also get the opportunity to travel and work with a variety of people. In other words, the interior design industry just seems to provide so much opportunity for career growth for anyone interested. And naturally, a lot of people would want that.

However, trying to figure out how to carve your path onto becoming an interior design is exceptionally difficult. This is true especially if you’re still a student. But don’t let that worry you too much. That is what this post is all about. It is to guide you in your journey of becoming an interior designer someday.

So, here are the things about the interior design industry that you should know about to help you in your journey:

What Makes a Good Interior Designer?

Since interior design is a multifaceted field, it’s no wonder that an interior designer should also have a wide array of skills and traits. Having a good eye for design and aesthetics is obviously the first thing that any interior designer should have. And the second important thing is to have some business knowledge. But aside from these two, an interior designer should also have these skills:

  • Communication skills because you need to be able to work effectively with teams of engineers, architects, and builders
  • Technical skills because you need to use complex drawing software and read blueprints
  • Flexibility skills because you need to work nontraditional hours and travel to design sites to meet with clients
  • Detailed and precision skills because you need to measure spaces as accurately as possible so that you can create drawings
  • Troubleshooting skills because you need to minimize schedule delays and budgeting issues

What Are the Types of Interior Design?

Since you are planning to pursue a career in interior design someday, it might help a lot if you figure out now which type you want to specialize. Of course, you can definitely change your mind in the future. But nonetheless, it is still a good idea to determine where your talents lie. That way, you have a place that you can begin with. To help you decide what your possible specializations may be, here is a list of some of the most popular types of interior design:

  • Bathroom Design: In this type of interior design, you’re going to help clients get their ideal bathrooms that are elegant in design but at the same time restful and functional.
  • Corporate Interior Design: With this, you get to design workspaces that are both ergonomic and efficient for the employees inside.
  • Exhibit Design: You get to create exhibits for clients. These exhibits will range from art galleries to zoos, as well as exhibits for trade shows and showrooms.
  • Feng Shui Interior Design: For this, you’ll need to use the principles of Feng Shui to get the energy flowing and create balance in an environment.
  • Green Interior Design: You get to develop expertise in designing spaces by using products and methods that are friendly to the environment.
  • Health Care Interior Design: With this, you will make health care centers like hospitals, cancer centers, and nursing homes more efficient and welcoming through interior design.
  • Hotel Interior Design: You’ll create inviting spaces for the hotel industry while also considering factors such as comfort, function, aesthetic appeal, concept, and budget.
  • Japanese and Asian Interior Design: You’ll apply the graceful, uncluttered aesthetic of Japanese and Asian interior design to your client’s spaces.
  • Kitchen Design: You’ll provide your clients with a kitchen that is both aesthetically pleasing and efficient at the same time.
  • Modern Interior Design: You’ll integrate the sleek look and practical principles of modern design into your projects.
  • Residential Interior Design: You’ll help improve the form and function of your clients’ living spaces while also considering the personal style that they want.
  • Restaurant Interior Design: You’ll develop design concepts that will contribute to positive customer experiences and the success of restaurant businesses.
  • Set Design: You’ll get to use your design skills to work in film, television, or theatre.
  • Zen Interior Design: You’ll create beautiful interior spaces by using the minimalist style of Zen interior design.

Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator

A lot of the times, people confuse interior design with interior decorating. And though they do have some similarities, they differ greatly from one another, especially in terms of responsibilities. That is why it is crucial that these two are differentiated so that you will know if you’re actually interested in interior design or if you’re actually more inclined to interior decorating.

According to the National Council Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Additionally, the interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, particularly research and analysis, to meet the needs and resources of the client.

Interior decorating, on the other hand, is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or aesthetically pleasing things. It’s purely focused on aesthetics. In other words, you can say that interior designers may decorate, but interior decorators do not design.

To help you see their differences clearly, here is a chart of their differences laid out.

Interior Designer

Interior Decorator

Formal training required since interior design focuses on space planning as a whole

No formal training is required since interior decorating is purely focused on aesthetics alone. That said, there are classes available, but not degree programs.

Focuses on renovations, structural changes, spatial planning, and functional design

Focuses on decorative elements, such as style, color, furniture, fabrics, accessories, and room layout

Usually hired for commercial work

Usually hired for residential work

Interacts with contractors and architects

Interacts with homeowners, furniture makers, painters, and other industry professionals

Works as an apprentice

Working as an apprentice is not required

Licensing is required

Licensing is not required

Interior Design Education

Campus

When talking about getting an education in interior design, the first thing that will come to mind is attending an on-campus interior design school. The on-campus interior design school is the one with a typical university or college setting, complete with classrooms that you go to for classes.

The greatest advantage of on-campus schools is that your education is going to be face-to-face and experiential. Aside from learning theories, you get to apply them on practice while also engaging with the teacher and the other students. In other words, there is an active communication going on, which is helpful for aspiring interior designers. Additionally, the training is hands-on, with a teacher overlooking everything and making sure you’re doing everything right.

If you choose to go an on-campus interior design school, you’re going to have to choose a degree program. There are about four kinds of programs that you can choose. They are as follows:

Certificate

A certificate program in interior design is a program that does not have any formal enrollment requirements. Anyone can choose to get into this, and they’ll only have to dedicate about two to three years of coursework. Once the student graduates, they’ll be qualified to work in entry-level positions under the supervision of experienced interior designer.

Associate’s Degree

Just like the certificate program, the associate’s degree doesn’t also require any formal enrollment requirements. And aside from that, it also only requires two to three years of coursework. Once graduated, the student is qualified to work as an assistant to an interior designer. And if they want, they can also choose to enter a bachelor’s degree program seeing that the associate’s degree qualifies them for that as well.

Bachelor’s Degree

Now, this is the one that has formal enrollment requirements. Usually falling within the science, applied arts, or fine arts departments, a bachelor’s degree in interior design requires four years of coursework. And this coursework typically includes interior architecture or industrial design. After a student finishes this program, they are qualified to enter a one- to a three-year formal design apprenticeship program at an architecture or design firm.

Master’s Degree and Doctorate

This is not as common as the first three mentioned. Nonetheless, an interior designer with a bachelor’s degree can choose to take this additional program. A master’s degree or a doctorate is ideal if you want to expand your education on interior design. Both of them usually will add additional insight into industrial design, education, and fine art.  

Online

Although on-campus interior design schools offer so many great benefits for aspiring designers, not everyone can attend one. There are multiple reasons for this. It can because they don’t near any interior design school, because they can’t afford to go there, or because they’re preoccupied with their job or family demands. If you are an aspiring designer who can’t go to an on-campus, there’s no need to worry. You can still get an education by applying to an online school.

An online interior design school is highly similar to an on-campus one. They have nearly similar curriculums. The only big difference between the two is that an online school is more lenient and flexible in terms of scheduling. You can choose to take the lectures or pass your assignments whenever you’re able. The schedule is definitely flexible for anyone.

So, when it comes down to it, both an on-campus school and an online school are good choices for getting an education in interior design. You just need to figure out for yourself which path is the best for you.

What Are Interior Design Training Courses Like?

Whether you choose to go to an on-campus school or an online one, you’ll still essentially learn pretty much the same things. What makes a curriculum different from another is based on the institution you’re getting an education from. But whatever is the case, chances are you’re likely going to study these following courses in some way:

  • Color theory
  • Computer-aided drafting
  • Creating specifications for interior construction
  • Ethics
  • Graphic communication
  • History of interior design or architecture
  • Interior design business practices
  • Interior design specialties
  • Interior design studio
  • Lighting
  • Materials, methods, and finishes
  • Problem-solving
  • Safety and building codes
  • Space planning
  • Two- and three-dimensional design

After School: Working as an Interior Designer

About the Job

Now that you’re done getting your education on interior design, it’s time to finally get a job. And though interior design offers a wide variety of jobs, they share quite a lot of similar responsibilities. So, no matter which interior design specialization you choose, you’re most likely going to do the following tasks on a regular basis:

  • Finding new clients and determining their needs
  • Bidding on projects
  • Making a project schedule and budget
  • Determining the area’s main function, look, and furnishings
  • Researching building and safety codes
  • Drawing design plans by hand or using computer-aided design
  • Reading blueprints or drawings
  • Picking furniture, wall finishes, lighting, and kitchen and bathroom fixtures
  • Placing orders for materials
  • Supervising installation of materials
  • Working closely with clients, architects, engineers, and builders

Interior Designer Salaries

It’s pretty difficult to determine the exact salary that interior designers get, simply because there are a lot of factors that come into it. The following are some of the most common factors that affect the salary that interior designers get:

  • The company you work for: Are you working in a prominent firm? Or are you working for a startup firm that does not yet have a reputation? The esteem of the company you’re working for may affect how much you’re going to get paid.
  • Your work experience: If you’re fresh out of college, chances are your first salary is going to be low. However, the longer you stay in the industry, the more experienced you’ll get. And that experience will get you a higher wage eventually.
  • Your education level: If you have a bachelor’s degree in interior design, you’re likely going to get decent pay. And you might even get a better one if you have a master’s degree or a doctorate.
  • Your geographical location: Do you live in a city? Chances are you’re going to get a bigger salary there. This is primarily because cities have a high cost of living, and to balance that, most businesses will also give out higher salaries.
  • Your work contract: Is your job project-based or part-time? Understandably, you’re likely going to get a fixed amount for your salary. But if you work full-time or on a permanent basis, you have more chances of growth both in your salary and in your own career.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s at least look at the estimated median wages that interior designers get. It’s true that we won’t really know the exact amount, but we can at least have a rough estimate. Here are the median annual salaries for interior designers in the top five industries where they usually work for:

 

Industry

Median Annual Salary

Architectural and engineering firms

$62,590

Wholesale trade

$55,930

Residential building construction

$57,490

Specialized design services

$56,710

Furniture stores

$48,470

 

Job Growth and Outlook for Interior Designers in Canada

For interior designers, along with interior decorators, new job openings are projected to total 10,300 over the period of 2017 to 2026. This employment growth is expected to be higher than the average for all occupations, simply because the demand for interior designers and decorators has significantly increased during the last decade, especially in Ontario. The housing market is strong in this area, so the number of renovations has increased. As a result, there is a huge demand for interior designers and decorators.

It is expected that this demand for designers and decorators will continue over the projection period of 2017-2026. Additionally, school leavers and immigrants are projected to account for the majority of job seekers.

Takeaway

The interior design industry is flourishing as of right now. And why shouldn’t it be? So many people are planning to get houses or to start businesses, and of course, they want their space to not only look good but also function well. So, there is a demand for interior designers already. This demand is a good enough reason to lure people into becoming aspiring designers themselves. But aside from that, becoming an interior designer is also tempting because the job allows your inner creativity to shine through. In other words, being an interior designer just seems like a really fun job to a lot of people.

But if you’re just starting to develop an interest in interior design, it gets overwhelming really fast trying to figure out how to plan your future. There are so many things you need to keep in mind. The school you’re going to go to, the area that you want to focus on, where you’re going to apply for a position someday, how much you’re going to get paid. There are so many questions, and answering them might just hurt your head.

Thankfully, this post aims to help you in this deliberation process. It’s like your guide, telling you all you need to know so that you can make a well-informed decision in the future. So, you must be reading this post thoroughly and taking all the information to heart. And one of these days, the things you learned now will help you make all your interior design dreams come true.