Interior Design Careers

Make a living AND make a difference.

What does an interior designer do?

The details of our manmade world - where we live, work and play - greatly influence our moods, our comfort and even our productivity. By manipulating both the aesthetic and physical nature of a space, the interior designer brings an environment into harmony with its purpose, simultaneously bringing us into harmony with ours.

Interior designers plan the space and furnish the interiors of private homes, public buildings, business and institutional facilities, including offices, restaurants, retail establishments, hospitals, hotels and theaters. They also plan the interiors when existing structures are renovated or expanded. Interior designers may work in an architectural or interior design firm, or may work in a retail furniture or lighting store. They also work in contract furniture dealerships and design furniture floor exhibitions and retail space for grocery stores, department stores and restaurants. Some interior designers market and sell textiles to office and home furnishing companies. Other designers open firms for their own residential design businesses or share sample rooms with other interior designers.

Kendall interior design graduates work at local studios, corporations and institutions, as well as at regional, multinational and architectural firms.

Most interior designers are specialists. For example, some may concentrate on residential design and others may further concentrate by focusing on particular rooms, such as kitchens or baths. Other areas of specialization for interior designers are textile design, lighting design, Feng Shui and Zenls.

With a client's tastes, needs and budget in mind, interior designers prepare drawings and specifications for non-load-bearing interior construction, furnishings, lighting and finishes. Increasingly, designers use computers to plan layouts that can be changed easily as the designer and the client exchange ideas. Interior designers also propose lighting and architectural details, such as crown molding, built-in bookshelves or cabinets; coordinate colors; and select furniture, floor coverings and window treatments. Interior designers must design each space to conform to federal, state and local laws, including building codes. Designs for public areas also must meet accessibility standards for the disabled and elderly.

Employment of interior designers is expected to grow 19 percent from 2006 to 2016, faster than average for all occupations. Economic expansion, growing homeowner wealth and an increasing interest in interior design will increase demand for designers.

The rise of popular home design improvement TV shows has increased the demand for design services. Outdoor living spaces, indoor spas and garden spaces, home theaters, and office spaces are opening new niches for interior designers.

The increase in the need for universal and sustainable design and the emergence of ergonomics and historic preservation specialties also offer new avenues and opportunities for interior designers.


In your career as an interior designer, continuing education, licensure or certifications will increase your marketability. Twenty-six states now require interior designers to be certified by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) in order to practice and market themselves as interior designers. NCIDQ's role includes the establishment of standards for education and training and the administration of a minimum competency examination. In order to be licensed in any NCIDQ member jurisdiction or qualify for professional membership within interior design organizations, designers must first pass this exam.

The IDEP program

The purpose of IDEP (Interior Design Experience Program) is to develop competency in interior design practice and prepare the graduate for the NCIDQ exam. The Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP) is a monitored, documented experience program administered by the NCIDQ for entry-level interior designers.

The career path of a professional interior designer involves formal education, work experience and a qualifying examination. Candidates for the NCIDQ examination must have demonstrated work experience. State licensing boards and provincial associations require proof of high-quality, diversified interior design experience for licensure and/or registration.

IDEP assists entry-level interior designers in obtaining a broad range of quality professional experience. The program provides a structure for the essential transition between formal education and professional practice, recognizing the differences between classroom and workplace. For more information on this program, visit

What are some typical occupations for interior designers?

  • Interior designer
  • Project manager
  • Manufacturer representative
  • Furnishings buyer
  • College instructor
  • Marketing consultant
  • Health care designer
  • Retail designer
  • Hospitality designer
  • Restaurant designer
  • Design consultant
  • Design manager
  • Office designer
  • Residential designer
  • Set designer
  • Contract designer
  • Flooring designer
  • Spatial planner
  • Showroom manager
  • Educator
  • Retail designer
  • Kitchen designer
  • Lighting designer

Where are Kendall graduates working?

  • Steelcase
  • Haworth
  • Progressive AE
  • Integrated Architecture
  • Custer Office Environments
  • Via Design
  • Beta Design Group
  • Ethan Allen
  • Israels Designs for Living
  • Milliken
  • Kendall Lighting Center
  • Kenneth Brown's reDesign TV show
  • Xhibitz
  • Midwest Tile
  • Interior Systems Inc.
  • Cornerstone Architects
  • Humanscale
  • URS
  • Shoreline Architecture and Design
  • Tangrum
  • Tangram Interiors
  • Spartan Stores

Salary information

Median annual earnings for wage and salary interior designers were $42,260 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $31,830 and $57,230. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,270 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,760.

Employment-related websites

The following links provide employment information specifically for interior designers.

  • International Interior Design Association (IIDA)
  • (career resource for the design industry)
  • (American Society of Interior Designers)
  • (job listings)
  • (job listings)
  • (National Council for Interior Design Qualifications)
  • (Careers in Interior Design)

Get involved

  • The Kendall Green Council
  • Student chapter of ASID/IIDA

West Michigan sustainable business forum Visit Kendall's job bulletin for internships, jobs, competitions, freelance work and more.

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