10 Great Interior Design Careers to Consider

interior design career options a woman customer trying a hat education advice

Plus, what Education You Will Need!

Do you dream about having a career in interior design?

You’re not alone. Many creative and design-oriented people think of a career as interior design as a dream job. However, there can be a lot of confusion when trying to figure out what education you need and what your career prospects are.

In your search to find answers about how to become an interior designer and start a career in the interior design field, you can come across a lot of conflicting information.

Why, for example, is there so much confusion over who can call themselves an interior designer?

Today we’ll explore the different types and “levels” of interior designer and give you an idea of what it will take for you to ‘unlock’ the job of your dreams.

Discovering the Career Options Within Interior Design

Before starting my interior design educationOpens in a new tab. I did a lot of reading about the industry and about the different interior design career options.

I discovered that there are in fact TEN types of interior specialists who may be given the interior designer handle.

This list of the most common interior design careers and what education is needed for each will clue you in!

What We’ll Cover

We’ll start by defining what an interior designer is and what they do.

We’ll touch on scope of work and how it can differ depending on what specialization you choose within the interior design field.

We’ll talk about ten great career options within the broader interior design field and how much training or education you will need for each of them.

Lastly, I ‘ll give you a list of questions to help you self-evaluate and discover the type of interior design career you are interested in.

I’ll also explain why it’s a good idea to have a learning objective.

Don’t miss some excellent resources for interior design career research and other helpful tips which I will link at the end of the article.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

In a hurry? Start here.

Let’s Define Interior Designer

interior design career options definition of interior designer what is an interior designer

Dictionary Definition

The dictionary defines interior designer as someone who specializes in interior design. Someone who plans the decoration of the interior of a house or building is another definition.

To design something means to make or draw plans for something.


So, to summarize: An interior designer is a specialist who plans the decoration of the interior of a house or building.

In truth, what an interior designer actually does in the course of a project is way more involved than can be summed up here.

If you are interested in knowing more, please read these introductory articles here:

The 10 Commandments of Interior DesignOpens in a new tab.

So, You Want to Be an Interior Designer?Opens in a new tab.

4 Reasons Why Interior Design ExistsOpens in a new tab.

2 Big Reasons Why Interior Design is ImportantOpens in a new tab.

The Interior Designers ‘Scope’

interior design career options two man holding white paper construction  professional engineer safety

Interior Design Professional Practice and the Law

When we talk about ‘scope’ in interior design, we are talking about how much interior designers are actually, legally, allowed to do in the course of their design work, as well as what they have been hired to do by the client.

Governing agencies overseeing new constructions, renovations and urban planning are concerned with defining the extent of change that professionals in the building industry can make to a building safely.

This oversight includes approving the work of construction professionals and engineers, as well as designers and architects who plan building projects.

Interior Design Job Site Hazards

In the case of professional interior design practice, it’s important to note that some aspects to the process of enhancing and especially renovating an interior can be hazardous if done incorrectly.

One of the most common problems faced with interior renovation work is the possibility of making damaging changes to the structure of the building when removing internal walls in favor of a more open plan arrangement.

This type of work always requires the consultation of a structural engineer who will need to “vet” the interior designer’s plans as being feasible and safe.

Most town planning departments require that a licensed professional sign off on projects before they can be approved. For this reason, some designers are able to draft legal building plans, while others may not.

At the end of the day it comes down to qualifications (education and/or training) and licensure.

Scope of Interior Design Education

It’s important to note that space planning (which may require demolition of existing features in an interior) is an important part of interior design training and practice, especially in work within the commercial sector.

Space planning and zoning are taught as part of the interior design curriculum in most university level educational programs.

This part of design work often includes interior architectural elements as well as the planning of building systems, such as HVAC, plumbing and lighting or even security systems.

interior design career options person people building laptop blueprints plans

Not All Interior Design Work is Equal

Once we understand what interior design university graduates are trained to do, the above definition citing interior design as being ‘decorationonly is not strictly true.

What is true, is that if you aren’t educated or licensed to be doing those aspects of interior design work in the public sphere, you shouldn’t be.

But does this mean that these more qualified professionals are the only types of ‘interior designers’?

Are there other interior design career options we should know about?

Let’s find out.

Specialties Within the Interior Design Field

Set Your Learning Intention

Today I’m going to be talking about the various types of “interior designers” and their jobs.

If you would like to go into the field of interior design, knowing your options is a great start.

A little knowledge on what you should be aiming for can help you to set your intention for the ‘level’ of design job that you wish to achieve.

Understand the Commitment Required

interior design career options close up photograph of chess pieces your move choose decide

So, what do I mean by level?

In the list below I rank ten of the most common career paths for interior designers, or for anyone who wants to design the interiors of buildings for a living.

I have listed ten interior design careers, ranked by the level of time commitment required to learn how to do the job.

Some design careers allow you to learn as you go, learn on the job or do some in-house company training for.

Other jobs will require that you have some formal schooling.

It’s up to you how far you want to go with your pursuit of learning interior design!

Check Your Requirements

The requirements for interior design professionals can vary from country to country and even between states or provinces.

Now it’s easy to see why there is so much confusion!

Want to know more about licensing requirements for interior designers? Go hereOpens in a new tab..

Make sure you find out about the legislation for where you live.

The Interior Designer Career Spectrum and You

Careers involving the design and decoration of interiors cover a spectrum

From designers who focus purely on the aesthetic details all the way to those who deal with structural design there are different choices.

If you love the subject of interior design one or several of these choices may appeal to you!

Well future designer, what type of interior designer would you like to be?

Interior Design Careers

Education RequiredNumber of years
1. Hobbyist decorator

Often an artistic type of person. May be a creator, collector or decor-lover with an eye for color and arrangement

Short courses available

2. Virtual interior decorator or designer

This type of designer conducts a design business entirely onlineOpens in a new tab.. They typically plan and/or coordinates the purchase of home goods and furniture
Knowledge of design software required

Usually self-taught
3. Professional decorator

This decorator takes it to the next level and decorates full time; either for a living, or because they love it
Some training useful

Short courses available

4. Furniture, antiques or other interior-design related industry specialist

Oftentimes this designer works in a store and advises clients about home decor and furniture
Education or training may be required0.5-3.0

Company training or design education
5. Home styling and renovation expert

Similar to the above, although this designer may work for a construction or fitting company. May design bathrooms and kitchens
Education or qualification may be required0.5-3.0

Company training, design or construction education

6. Home staging professional

This career is closely tied to the real estate industry. Designers may be self taught or formally educated

There is no barrier to entry
Some training useful

Open to newcomers and design graduates
7. Residential interior designer

This designer may work for a firm or has established their own, this designer’s specialty is private homes
Formal training is not required to design the homes of private individuals, however many designers are required have degrees if they work for firms

Designers begin as junior designers and work their way to intermediate designer and finally senior designer

Business license, associates or bachelor degree

8. Commercial interior designer

As they work in the public sector this designer is subject to building code laws and regulations related to fire, earthquakes and other matters of public health and safety
Designers who work in the retail, hospitality or corporate sectors must have a bachelor’s degree in a related subject

Bachelor degree

9. Exhibition or set designer

The incredibly faced-paced world of set design needs designers who are world-class, good under pressure, and trained in the specifics of stage or exhibition design
Designers are usually college graduates with considerable experience3.0-4.0

Bachelor degree or higher

10. Architectural firm interior designer or interior architect

Designers who work in an architectural firm work on large projects

Competition is high

Designers need a bachelor degree as a minimum, and often a bachelor of science in interior architecture.3.0-4.0
Bachelor degree or higher

Keep Learning

interior design career options education people studying in a library

Stay Open-Minded About Different Interior Design Career Options

This list is not exactly exhaustive. If you’re really ambitious there are several other niches for people who design for a living.

Some examples are landscape design, urban planning, marine designers or highly specialized aerospace designers, etc.

Most of these high level careers require a knowledge of mechanics, engineering or other STEM subjects.

Hey, don’t limit yourself.

Self Assess

If there are any categories you are unfamiliar with consider familiarizing yourself with those options. This way you can make an informed decision about which interior design career options to weed out.

interior design career options young thinking consider options woman using laptop at home

Getting down to the brass tacks about the type of designer you want to be requires a little knowledge of yourself, your goals and also the larger interior design industry.  

Figuring out what type of designer you want to be in the future is not exactly rocket science, as they say (but in case you were wondering, as a designer you might develop the skills to design a rocket with the help of an aerospace engineer).

Questions to Ask Yourself About Becoming an Interior Designer

These questions about design may help you to decide on the type of designer you want to become:

  • How far do you want to go in your pursuit of becoming a designer? 
  • How long do you want to spend on learning design?
  • Are you interested only in designing or also the business side of things?
  • Are you passionate about design?  What about architecture? Are you good in any STEM subjects?
  • Is interior design something you have only a passing or a mild interest in? Is it something you would like to learn as a hobby?  
  • Is interior design what you are going for or do you have something more along the lines of decorating in mind?  
  • Are you looking to become a licensed professional?  
  • Do you want to go to school? Full time or part time?  
  • Are you interested in studying from home?
  • What type of setting would you like to work in eventually?
  • Do you see yourself working in a big studio with a lot of other designers working on large-scale projects? –Or would you rather strike out on your own, Million Dollar Decorators style?
  • Do you want to do residential type work or commercial?
  • Are you interested in a particular niche like offices or resorts?
  • What is it that drew you to the interior design field in the first place?
  • Do you want to be an entrepreneur?
  • Would you like to work out of your own home?
  • Do you want to be your own boss?
  • Do you want to specialize in something related to design like model making. photography or writing?

Food for Thought

If you don’t have the answers to the question “What type of interior design career option is right for me?” right off the bat, don’t worry. 

You don’t have to make your mind up right this minute. 

However, doing a little digging, research and even some soul-searching will really help when it comes to putting your plan for starting a future interior design career into action.

interior design career options orange fabric sofa with three throw pillows near black potted plant

Research Your Interior Design Interests

Don’t forget to follow your natural curiosity.

Here are some reasons you should learn more about the different types of interior design career opportunities out there:

Reasons to Learn More About interior Design Careers

  1. Knowing all the options helps you stay realistic about what you want to do
  2. Understand the various types of designers and the requirements that come with various types of design jobs 
  3. Understand what it will take to get to where you want to go so that you can prepare
  4. Understand what some of the less enjoyable legalities of the interior design industry are
  5. Niche down and focus on what’s right for you
  6. Have a goal that keeps you accountable to your vision for becoming a designer

In conclusion

If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t be afraid to start small and increase your knowledge base and abilities as you go.  

  • It’s possible, for example, to take a short decorating course before committing to any more
  • Take on a personal project and document the experience, including what you loved and hated about it 
  • Read up on your favorite designers and see how they got where they are

You Can Do This!

Interior design is a truly wonderful and broad profession with a lot of opportunities in each sphere and moreover a ton of potential for diversification.

Don’t let being a newbie put you off becoming an interior designer! 

There’s a reason that you are reading this, and that reason is that on some level you want this.

I encourage you to go for it!

Happy design learning!

Further Reading (External):

What Can I do with a Degree in Interior Design?Opens in a new tab.

Interior Design Career PathsOpens in a new tab.

Everything You Need to Know About interior Design Jobs and Their SalariesOpens in a new tab.

Our mission at Design Baddie is to make basic interior design information accessible and free to all! We will be giving away our future introductory interior design e-books absolutely free.

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Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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