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How to Become an Interior Designer

Interior designers need a bachelor’s degree with a focus on interior design.


A bachelor’s degree is usually required, as are classes in interior design, drawing, and computer-aided design (CAD). A bachelor’s degree in any field is acceptable, and interior design programs are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredits more than 150 professional-level (bachelor’s or master’s degrees) interior design programs.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association accredits kitchen and bath design specialty programs (certificate, associate’s, and bachelor’s degree level) in 46 colleges and universities.

Applicants may be required to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability for admission to interior design programs.


Licensure requirements vary by state. Many states have laws that restrict the use of the title “interior designer.” For example, in these states, both licensed and unlicensed designers may do interior design work. But only those who pass their state-approved exam, most commonly the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, may call themselves registered interior designers.

The NCIDQ exam is the nationally recognized exam required for licensure. (California requires a different exam, administered by the California Council for Interior Design Certification.) Qualification to take the exam include a combination of education and experience. Typically, applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree in interior design plus 2 years of experience.


Voluntary certification in an interior design specialty, such as kitchens and baths, allows interior designers to demonstrate their expertise in a particular area of interior design. Interior designers often specialize to distinguish the type of design work they do and to promote their expertise. Certifications usually are available through professional or trade associations and are independent from the NCIDQ licensing examination.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Interior designers use their sense of style to develop designs that look great and are aesthetically pleasing.

Creativity. Interior designers need to be imaginative in selecting furnishings and fabrics and in creating spaces that serve the client’s needs and fit the client’s lifestyle.

Detail oriented. Interior designers need to be precise in measuring interior spaces and making drawings so that furniture and furnishings will fit correctly and create the appropriate environment.

Interpersonal skills. Interior designers need to be able to communicate effectively with clients and others. Much of their time is spent soliciting new work and new clients and collaborating with other designers, engineers, and general building contractors on ongoing projects.

Problem-solving skills. Interior designers must address challenges such as construction delays or the high cost or sudden unavailability of selected materials while keeping the project on time and within budget.

Visualization. Interior designers need a strong sense of proportion and visual awareness to understand how pieces of a design will fit together to create the intended interior environment.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition