Commercial Interior Designer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 25, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a commercial interior designer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification standards to find out if this is the career for you.

Commercial interior designers assess the needs of clients with commercial space and recommend fabrics, accessories, furniture and other design elements that can be combined to suit the clients' needs. They may focus on everything from building structure to furniture and accessories. Interior designers need a college degree, and, in some states, a license.

Essential Information

Interior design is typically broken down into two broad realms: commercial and residential design. Commercials spaces might include anything outside of a private home or office, such as hospitals or hotels. The type of building that's being decorated, furnished and accessorized affects the choices that a commercial interior designer will make. Interior designers usually have some postsecondary education followed by training, an internship or an apprenticeship.

Required Education Postsecondary certificate, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in interior design
Other Requirements After graduation, most undergo 1-3 years of training
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% (for all interior designers)
Median Salary (2018)* $53,370 (for interior designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Commercial Interior Design Job Description

Commercial interior designers may work for a design firm or be self-employed. They may also work for home-furnishing stores, where their job is to sell store merchandise while advising customers on design elements. On top of choosing a type of space in which to specialize (such as schools, stores, airports), designers may also choose to specialize in a certain aspect of design - such as kitchen, bath, closet or acoustic design.

Designers may work out of an office space run by their employers' company or have a home office; in either case, much of their time is spent work at client locations. Designers who are employed by a firm often work normal business hours in comfortable and well-lit environments. Some design firms or projects involve travel.

Work Process

Most designers follow the same process for each job. First they meet with the client to assess the space and learn what the client wants. Next they create a plan and a cost estimate that they present to the client. Revisions may be needed based on the client's response. The next step after the plan is approved is to identify the specific materials to be used: fabrics, surfaces, accessories and more. Determining the project timeline is the final step. Designers may need to interact with or oversee construction contractors or architects on any given project.

Other Skills

Because interior designers may use computer-aided design software for their work, computer skills are often useful. Employers may desire these professionals to have some engineering and building code knowledge to ensure that designs meet safety and design standards. Time-management skills, sales ability and self-motivation are also beneficial traits for someone interested in a career in commercial interior design.

Education Requirements

Post-secondary training is required for a career as an interior designer. In 2008, there were more than 150 interior design programs in the United States accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. Most programs focus on general interior design, though a few might offer concentrations or courses specific to commercial design. There are 2- and 3-year programs that result in certificates or associate degrees; graduates generally work as assistants to other designers before moving up in the field. Those who earn a 4-year bachelor's degree qualify to enter a formal design apprentice program, which lasts 1-3 years.

Licensure and Certification

In some states, interior designers must be licensed, and requirements vary by region. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) offers mentoring programs for entry-level designers. The Interior Design Experience Program offers ways for these designers to acquire work experience while being supervised. With the correct amount of education and experience, candidates can gain a professional credential.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for all interior designers is expected to grow 4% from 2018-2028, which is slower than the average for all occupations ( Because interior design is considered a luxury expense, there may be less need for these services in a downward economy. However, the following areas of design are increasing in popularity:

  • Ergonomic design
  • Geriatric design
  • Eco-friendly design


The BLS stated that the median annual wage for interior designers was $53,370 as of May 2018. Those working for government agencies reported higher earnings than other designers.

A commercial interior designer typically has a bachelor's degree in interior design and has completed an apprenticeship. Some states require licensing. It is possible to enter the field of interior design with an associate's degree, but graduates with associate's degrees usually begin as assistants.

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