If you are interested in a career in interior design, there are several steps you must complete.  Although most employers prefer hiring a candidate who has completed at least some form of formal education, it is possible to gain an entry-level position without completing an interior design program.  In this case, however, your employment opportunities will generally be quite limited until you have completed a formal education program or you have built up a portfolio and a reputation that you can use to help you further your career.

Unlike many other states, the state of California does not require an interior designer to obtain certification before working in this capacity.  In most cases, however, you will need to complete either a four-year bachelor’s degree program or you will need to complete an interior design certification program before you will be hired by an interior design company.  There are numerous two and three year certification programs available for you to select from, many of which are offered online as well as through brick and mortar campuses.  In fact, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design currently accredits about 250 postsecondary art and design programs throughout the United States, most of which offer interior design programs.  The Council for Interior Design Accreditation, which specifically accredits bachelor’s degree programs, currently accredits nearly 150 programs throughout the country.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published through the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, it is generally best to obtain a bachelor’s degree in interior design if you wish to obtain an entry-level position within the field.  The Occupational Outlook Handbook goes on to report that those who complete two or three year certification programs or associate degree programs generally quality to work as assistants to interior designers after their education is complete, while those who obtain a bachelor’s degree will generally qualify to enter an apprenticeship program.

In order to become accepted into an interior design school, you generally must first submit a portfolio containing examples of your abilities.  Once you are admitted to a program, you will complete a variety of different courses related to the field of study.  Some common classes that are required to complete an interior design certification or degree program include:

  • Architecture
  • Color and Fabrics
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
  • Drawing
  • Ergonomics
  • Ethics
  • >Furniture Design
  • Perspective
  • Psychology
  • Spatial Planning

In those states where a licensing examination is required, those who complete an interior design program must then enter a 1 or 3 year apprenticeship program before they are eligible to take a licensing exam.  Although the state of California does not require completing of a licensing exam in order to work as an interior designer, most graduates still find it necessary to complete an apprenticeship program before they are able to explore employment opportunities within the field.  While many apprentices work with design or architecture firms, some also complete their apprenticeship programs in furniture stores or in other similar settings.  Furthermore, it is also possible to complete this portion of your training through the Interior Design Experience Program, which is offered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.  Through this program, you can work in an entry-level capacity while being supervised through the program.

Although licensing is not required in the state of California, many interior designers choose to complete a licensing examination in order to demonstrated their abilities to their potential clients.  In order to take the examination, which is administered through the National Council for Interior Design Qualification program, applicants must first complete a total of 6 years of combined education and work experience within the field, with at least two of those years being dedicated to a post-secondary education in the field.  In order to maintain this licensure, interior designers must meet certain continuing education requirements.

For those who do not wish to complete a licensing examination, it is often advisable to join a professional interior design organization in order to demonstrate skills and a commitment to quality and professionalism.  In order to become a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, which is the largest professional interior design organization in the country, an interior designer must demonstrate work experience and must complete at least a 2-year degree program.