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Career Info for a Degree in Interior Design

Interior design is typically offered as a four-year undergraduate degree program. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Though similar, interior designers have a much broader field of responsibilities than interior decorators. An appropriate bachelor's degree is usually required for interior designers, while decorators technically have no academic requirements. Certification can be beneficial and licensure is often required for interior designers.

Essential Information

Interior designers and decorators are responsible for the indoor appearance of a home or building's interior. Degree programs can help individuals stand out in the competitive fields of interior design and decorating, as well as prepare them for certification.

Career Titles Interior Designer Interior Decorator
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree typically needed None, though postsecondary programs are available
Certification Options National Council for Interior Design Qualification Voluntary certification available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% N/A
Median Salary (2016)** $43,870 $38,668

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

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Career Options

Interior design and decorating programs teach students how to plan and design indoor spaces using colors, materials, space and lighting. Below is more information about the job duties and certification options for interior designers and decorators.

Interior Designer

Interior designers use the principles of design and structure to create dynamic spaces for homes, public buildings, museums, banks and any other built interior environment. They may choose furnishings, decorations, artwork and colors. They may also contribute to the structural design of in-progress spaces, determining where to place walls, windows and other structural elements.

Many U.S. states require interior designers to pass a licensing exam. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) offers a standardized exam for qualified interior designers, which may provide individuals with licensing or certification in their state.

Candidates must complete an accredited degree program in interior design and obtain a certain amount of work experience in the field. Interior design programs most often lead to an Associate of Applied Arts in Interior Design or a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, and coursework may cover computer-assisted design (CAD), sketching, construction, sales and blueprint techniques. The NCIDQ may require interior designers to obtain additional education to maintain their license or certification status.

According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary for interior designers was $43,870 in 2016. Additionally, the BLS predicted that employment in the field of interior design would increase by 4 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Interior Decorator

Interior decorating programs usually culminate in a certificate, though interior decorators often are required to have a bachelor's degree. Students learn how to use textiles, lighting, furniture, decorations and colors to create livable, comfortable spaces.

Interior decorators have a narrower range of responsibilities than interior designers because they are generally not concerned with the structural design of a space itself. Instead, they focus exclusively on decorations and other visual improvements. They furnish and decorate rooms to the specifications of a client, as well as their own aesthetic standards. Interior decorators are typically not required to obtain a license, but they may consider professional certification to prove their skills and qualifications to potential clients and employers.

According to 2016 salary information from PayScale, interior decorators earned a median wage of $38,668.

Employment opportunities for interior designers are projected to increase at a slower rate than the national average for all occupations for the foreseeable future. While some states require interior designers to be licensed, there is generally no such proviso for interior decorators, though the latter may find voluntary certification valuable.

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