How to Become a Kitchen Designer: Career Roadmap

Apr 27, 2020

Learn how to become a kitchen designer. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career in kitchen design.

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Kitchen Designer Career Info

Kitchen designers are specialized interior designers who work exclusively with kitchen spaces. They help clients design all aspects of a kitchen, including color, fixtures, cabinetry, wall coverings, lighting, and appliances. They may also work with electricians, plumbers and engineers if a project requires major renovations. These professionals typically travel to meet with clients in their homes and often work evening and weekend hours.

Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's degree
Degree Field Interior design
Experience None for entry-level positions; 2 to 10 years of experience required to obtain certain credentials
Licensure and Certification Requirements vary by state; designers cannot use the Registered Interior Designer designation without licensure or certification; voluntary certifications available
Key Skills Artistic ability, creative, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, attention to detail, ability to use computer aided design software
Salary* $56,040 per year (2019 median salary for all interior designers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, Online Job Postings (August 2015)

Step 1: Complete Education

The first thing an aspiring kitchen designer should do is get a postsecondary education. The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) currently accredits certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs that have special emphasis on kitchen design. Additionally, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredit general interior design programs. Courses in these programs may include design fundamentals, interior design graphics, interior lighting, color theory, interior construction, and materials of interior design. Students also gain experience with computer aided design (CAD) software.

Some interior design programs may offer the chance to be active with student associations. For instance, the NKBA offers student memberships that provide access to local chapter meetings as well as options for searching for jobs or internships. Programs may also offer field trips and chances to participate in interior design competitions.

Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Position

Kitchen designers may begin their careers as assistants to registered kitchen designers. Assistants provide support in all areas of kitchen design. Other graduates may work at home furnishing stores, showrooms, or design centers. Sales, customer service, marketing or other non-design positions with such companies can provide opportunities to develop contacts and gain relevant experience.

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) offers a monitored program for entry-level design workers. This program, called the Interior Design Experience Program, gives students supervised, documented work experience while preparing them for certification. Credit is also given for observation and continuing education experiences. Students must register for the program within two years of graduation, which typically takes two to three years to complete.

Step 3: Get Licensed or Certified

Kitchen designers who wish to use the designation of Registered Interior Designer must pursue licensure according to the rules of their state. The NCIDQ offers a licensing and certification exam for designers who hold a bachelor's degree and have two years of experience. Interior designers in states that don't require a license can choose to take this exam if they want to increase their credentials. The exam assesses designers' knowledge of design development, professional practice, and contract documents. A passing score on the exam is required for professional membership in the American Society of Interior Designers and the International Interior Design Association.

Step 4: Consider Specialty Certifications

Optional certifications for those working in this field are available from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The exams for these credentials test professionals on business management, products, materials, planning, design, and construction. There are several levels of this voluntary certification. The Associate Kitchen & Bath Designer credential is possible after two years of qualifying work, while the Certified Kitchen Designer credential requires seven years of experience, of which three years are focused on kitchen and bath design. These certifications require client references and professional affidavits in addition to a passing score on the exam. Eventually, with 100 hours of education, 10 years of experience, and previous certifications, the Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer credential can become a possibility.

Once again, aspiring kitchen designers should complete a postsecondary certificate or degree program in interior design, gain hands-on experience through an internship or entry-level position, get licensed or certified, and then work their way up in the industry.

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