How to Get a Job as an Interior Designer

Tips for Launching an Interior Design Career

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Creativity and an eye for aesthetics are needed for a success career in interior design. Image Copyright Getty Images / Gary Houlder

If you’re pursuing a career in interior design, a sense of creativity and an eye for aesthetics is key. But, you’ll need more than just a creative mind. A successful career in interior design requires academic training, a comprehensive portfolio, and networking and business skills.

How to Get a Job as an Interior Designer

Here’s information on interior design careers, including education and certification, portfolio tips, networking advice, and how to find a job in the field.

Interior Design Education and Licensing Requirements

Most interior design candidates complete a four-year degree program, majoring in interior design. Many of these programs are accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, which ensures that the curriculum meets the field’s standards. Before choosing a program, it's a good idea to check its accreditation status.

For students looking to spend less time in school, some associate's degree programs offer interior design majors. If you're curious about a career in design but aren't sure if you want to commit, you may be able to take a low-cost, non-credit course at a community college to get a feel for the field.

Aspiring interior designers who have already completed a different type of undergraduate degree have the option to pursue a master's degree in design.

Candidates for postgraduate degrees complete coursework in 3D design, the design process, architecture, the history of interior design, architectural drawing, building standards, computer-aided design, lighting design, and building materials.

Certification Guidelines

Many states have certification guidelines for interior designers, but these standards and classifications vary widely. Google keywords like "interior designer certifications” within your state or speak with professionals in your area to determine the requirements for your location.

Interior Design Skills

Interior designers should have a creative mind and a well-honed sense of aesthetics, as it’s up to them to imagine and design attractive interiors for commercial and residential buildings. Also, interior designers should understand lifestyles and employee practices in order to create interiors that accommodate home and work life.  

Strong interpersonal skills are required for effective interaction with clients, builders, and architects, who might have conflicting design ideas. Customer service and sales skills are necessary to secure new business opportunities and garner referrals from satisfied clients. Problem-solving ability is essential for designers when resolving challenges with construction, contractors, and clients.

In addition, interior designers need to be precise and detail-oriented, as they measure spaces and calculate the materials needed for their projects. Since most interior designers work independently or with a few partners, management skills are important to carry out the administrative functions necessary to run a business.

Tips for Finding Interior Design Jobs

Interior design is a "show me what you have done" field.

This means that employers will want to see solid evidence of previous design work that illustrates good taste and strong skills. Potential designers need to assemble a portfolio of projects from previous courses, internships, and jobs, showing “before and after photos” for their renovation projects. It’s a good idea to create a website for your portfolio so you can list the URL on your resume or share it with potential employers via email.

Networking is by far the most important job search strategy for interior design candidates. Interior designers still in school should join the International Interior Design Association as student members. In addition, student designers should participate in any relevant networking opportunities, design competitions, and workshops to develop relationships with seasoned professionals.

It’s also a good idea to join the association’s student task force to provide input to the organization and tap their social networking groups to gain further exposure to interior design professionals who can be helpful with job searching.

Local architects and designers can be another valuable resource. Compile a list of firms in your area and contact them about the possibility of meeting for an informational interview. Your college's career and alumni office might also be able to provide a list of contacts who can provide information and advice.  

You should also consider asking family, friends, professors, and previous employers for introductions to any architecture and design professionals they might know. Mention to your contacts that you would like to get some feedback about your portfolio as you mobilize your job search. If you make a positive impression in your informational interviews, you might walk away with some job search leads or interview opportunities.

You can also kick-start your job search by visiting local interior design offices and architecture companies. Take the time to produce a nice, printed copy of your portfolio, and bring it to the front desk to see if a partner or staff member is available to take a quick look at your work samples.  

Make sure you show respect to the gatekeeper since that administrative assistant or receptionist may be the one who decides if you gain access to the professional staff. In case no one’s available, make sure your portfolio includes updated contact information so the firm can reach you if they’re interested in making a connection.

You can also take your job search online. Tap specialized interior design job websites like Interiordesignjobs.com and the International Interior Design Association website to obtain job listings. Search job search engine sites like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com by the keywords "interior designer" to generate an extensive list of openings in the field.

Interviewing for Interior Design Jobs

When you interview for an interior design job, employers will be looking for evidence that you have successfully solved design problems in the past. Be prepared to share portfolio samples that illustrate creative solutions to design challenges. You should be prepared to share your philosophy and approach to interior design. Reflect on current trends in interior design and be ready to express your views on the most significant trends.

To impress your interviewer, do some research before the interview. Analyze the interior design projects that your potential employer has undertaken in the past. Consider projects that you have completed that parallel their projects or showcase relevant design techniques. Have an opinion regarding which of their projects are most impressive to you and why, and be ready to discuss this with your interviewer.

You should also be ready to share five to seven skills, personal qualities, areas of knowledge, technical proficiencies, or other assets that you think make you a good designer. Prepare anecdotes, stories, and examples of how you have applied each of these strengths to your advantage in past internships, academic projects, jobs, or co-curricular experiences.

Send a thank you email or note right after your interview affirming your strong interest in the job, briefly detailing why it is an excellent fit, and expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to meet with staff.

Read More: How Much Does an Interior Designer Earn | Interior Design Skills

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