How to Become an Interior Designer: Everything You Need to Know


Also, think about the need for internships and work experience before embarking on your new interior design profession. All of these things take time, so be sure to factor into your timeline every step along the way.

Is attending design school a must?

“Formal education is a very deliberate path toward professional practice,” says David Harper, associate dean at the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID). “Certainly, you can learn about interior design without a formal education, but if your goal is professional practice, then embarking on that career path without a roadmap (formal education) makes for a long and potentially incomplete journey.”

DuVäl Reynolds, certified interior designer and owner/principal designer at DuVäl Design, LLC, in Fairfax, Virginia, agrees. “Attending design school definitely offers a more holistic view of our industry and the craft. This is a more concentrated approach to learning technique, schematics, and compositions,” he explains. “Formal training also forces you to study topics that a layperson may not consider like art history, color theory, or specific computer programs.”

“If you want to pursue interior design and not decorating, it is essential to attend school,” urges Maria Lomanto, president of ASID New York Metro and founding principal of DesignGLXY. “It would be a slow and arduous process to learn about building standards, codes, health safety, welfare, and lighting only through experience. Besides, if you ever wanted to get licensed, school would be required and any experience gained prior to classwork would not count towards qualifying to sit for the exam.”

To Lomanto’s point, becoming a licensed interior designer takes at least an associate’s degree—and more likely a bachelor’s degree—and a master’s puts you at an even greater advantage. An interior design degree in any related field is acceptable, but your coursework should include interior design, drawing, and computer-aided design (CAD) at the very least. Adding classes like graphic design, color theory, lighting, materials, building codes and standards, and art history can only enhance your base of knowledge. Also, degrees in fine arts, drafting and design tech, interior architecture, or theater design from a number of US colleges and universities could set the right foundation for an interior design career—just as long as you carefully plan a course of study that includes a range of design classes.

What design school is right for you?

If you opt to attend interior design school, do some research to discern which programs are best suited to you. Conduct site visits to see what atmosphere resonates with you most, evaluate the curriculum to consider if it aligns with your professional ambitions and what’s relevant knowledge in the workplace, and consult current students and faculty to glean their perspective on the student experience at that school. Finally, talk to the admissions staff about what you can do to make your candidacy stand out among a sea of qualified aspiring interior design students.

“While many factors play into where you choose to go to school, you want to go someplace that has a strong reputation for excellence and a track record for solid job placement,” says Harper. “You want a school that graduates students who are prepared to be interior designers! Likewise, a strong alumni network will help you when graduation nears. Alumni are a great first connection to industry and can often help support you in finding the first position.”



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