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Interior Designer Jobs: Career and Employment Opportunities

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Working as a professional interior designer for many decades, I've been involved in design-and-build residential building projects.

Interior Design Career and Employment Opportunities

Interior Design Career and Employment Opportunities

In the interior design industry, there are numerous career opportunities for students of interior design or beginner designers. This also includes those who have been working in the design industry for many years.

Don’t believe it one bit if anyone says the industry is saturated. It is not, but unfortunately, many up and coming designers still don’t know this.

If you work in an interior design or architectural firm, there is not much you can do if you have clear assignments to carry out but if you run your own business, or are planning to do so, don't restrict yourself to what every other interior designer is doing. It's time to think carefully and observe areas of the market where you can fit in without being in some fierce competition with thousands of other designers.

Job and career opportunities abound but you just have to think smart.

New interior designers who want to make a career of their profession have studied hard to get a solid and sound foundation and have learned valuable skills, but do you know that the profession has many branches and sub-branches?

With niches within niches, just think of the hundreds of things that come to play in residential and commercial interior design, and home décor. The prospects are high, but it all depends on how you conceive and approach it.

Interior Design Employment Opportunities to Consider

If you are a beginner interior designer or a student of interior design, employment opportunities in an establishment may be one of the first jobs you want to look for.

If sitting in an office, planning and drafting interior design concepts is all you are aiming for, there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you enjoy that aspect of interior design but there is more to the profession than being employed in an office environment.

On the other hand, if you decide to go niche-specific, you will find that there are many more job opportunities available in the industry.

Jobs in the Real Estate Industry

Job opportunities in the real estate industry can involve working for professional home builders, real estate companies, and property developers. Having an interior designer on board is an added plus to property firms because their professional design skills are an essential aspect of the property market.

It helps (in no small measure) to ensure quick sales to prospective buyers. A designer knows precisely what buyers want and knows how to give it to them.

Employment in Home Improvement Stores

There are great job openings for interior designers in home improvement stores and home decor departments in large retail stores. Designers can work with manufacturers of home design elements and fixtures like bathroom wares, kitchen cabinetry furniture, lighting elements, and other interior design related products.

They may also have to interact with customers who will eventually become clients by helping them with space planning projects, makeovers, renovations, using the store’s branded products, etc.

Working in the Building Industry's Associated Firms

There are great job opportunities for interior designers to work in architectural firms, engineering companies, interior design businesses, and home builders and contractors. There are also building-related consulting firms that employ interior designers on contract.

Designers can serve as junior partners or heads of design departments in such firms. Because designers are skilled in creating functional and aesthetically pleasing interior environments, their services are in demand for consulting, creating design concepts, and producing the required drawings for the firms’ clients.

Work in a Project Management Firm

Interior designers can work in building project management firms as interior design project managers. These kinds of projects are more of the medium to large scale commercial design projects. While employed as an interior design project manager (or assistant), the designer will be responsible for all facets of project planning, budgeting, scheduling, and execution of projects.

Freelance Jobs

If an interior designer wishes to be self-employed then its best to work a freelance interior designer. As a freelancer, designers can work directly with private clients, private firms, consultants, or even the property development industry. Services provided may be anything from designing custom furniture to consultancy or supervisory tasks.

Freelance interior designers also provide consultation/advice to clients regarding space planning, organization, layout, and utilization of furniture and decorative pieces. The attraction of freelance jobs is the independence from the restrictions of permanent employment and the freedom to decide on which jobs to take, or, not.

Best Career Prospects in Interior Design

When you become an interior designer, you have the option of specializing in any niche or sub-category of the industry. With some careful thought and an informed decision, you can create a career path that will be both lucrative and successful.

The niches in interior design are extensive, and most of them are areas you'll probably enjoy working in. You can decide to go with the simpler options like choosing furniture and furnishings for clients or making custom accents like throw pillows and area rugs, or, you can go for the big ones like custom furniture design and production, or interior design project management.

Career prospects in the industry are vast and go beyond the list below. However, these opportunities can spur and motivate you into researching further on the sub-categories that exist in each of the career prospects listed below (in no particular order).

Interior lighting design and consultancy

An important sub-category of interior design is the enhancement of interior spaces with both functional and aesthetically appealing lighting systems to help create an ambience and mood in any living space.

Commercial Interior Design

This niche involves consulting with prospective clients, designing and producing the design concept drawings, and supervising the tasks being implemented. Commercial projects cover restaurants, hotel interiors, bars, clubs, and other recreational facilities.


A career working as a journalist or writer involves writing articles for design magazines, blogs, journals, student’s books, and electronic media publications.

Hospitality Design

When a designer works strictly in the hospitality sector, they are, for instance, in charge of designing and constructing hotel lobby layouts, resort guest rooms, hotel restaurants, and related public spaces while considering guests' overall comfort and user-experience.

Building 3D Models

Building three-dimensional interior design models is a lucrative career that brings many benefits to consultants, clients, and the workforce. It helps to speed up the design process and fastens the decision-making procedure while helping to identify and subsequently solve potential design problems that may arise before project commencement.

Three-dimensional building model showing the interior design concept.

Three-dimensional building model showing the interior design concept.

Recording Studio Design

For recording studio interior designs, every project is unique, but the common factor is that space must be comforting and motivational asides being functional and aesthetically pleasing. In terms of design, what sells a studio goes beyond a good price and varying technical gear. It’s the vibe and ambience that mostly sells a studio and this can only be achieved through a well-planned interior design concept.

Exhibit Design

Career exhibition designers create fixtures, fittings, and display stands for public (or private) exhibitions, conventions, conferences, trade shows, museums, art galleries, and other spaces that require themed attractions. This niche goes relatively unnoticed, but some interior designers work in it and are making good profits for their business.

Institutional Interior Design

Institutional interior design involves in-depth programming, planning, design, and management of interior spaces used by public and private organizations and is based on the concept of “designing for the people first”. An institution in this context can be anything from a hospital and school, to a museum, a residential care facility, religious building, or a courtroom structure.

CAD (Computer-Aided Design) Specialist

Today, every interior designer has no excuse for not being design software savvy. But many, at least, know the basics of designing with simple CAD programs and that’s good. A career path can be created by technically inclined designers to create 2D and 3D drawings and presentations.

Residential Interior Design

Residential interior designers provide services for clients that require home design tasks like interior space planning, design and furnishing, upgrades, and renovations. They can work freelance with architects and estate developers, be in a partnership, or work on a contract basis with other interior design firms.

Interior design of a small bathroom created with interior design software.

Interior design of a small bathroom created with interior design software.

Creative Painting

This career path is best for the artistically inclined interior designer that loves to sketch, paint, and illustrate. Working as a creative painter for interior walls and ceilings is lucrative because it is like selling art. Creative paint art techniques include stencilling, drip painting, faux wood and marbling, distressing, textured, and stamping.

Interior Design Educator

Teaching interior design is a route that many interior designers disregard, but it is a niche that is both profitable and fulfilling. Even practising designers who have extra time on their hands can teach in higher institutions. Interior design education can be through online courses, on-campus lecturing, and high schools. It is a great way to invest one’s expertise where others would learn from.

Stage Set Designer

Set interior designers create scenic settings for the entertainment industry through designing and furnishing the interiors we see in the film, theatre, television, and advertising industries. This is referred to as creating atmospheres of scenes through interior design.

The scope of service varies and may be as easy as designing the set for a stage play, or as complex as recreating locations like the interior of a ship or a great hall of a Gothic structure.

Kitchen and Wardrobe Design Specialist

These are one of the top profitable niches in the residential design category and many designers work as kitchen and wardrobe design specialists and fitters. Proficiency in the use of CAD interior design software is required for layout planning, material selections, colour schemes, textures, lighting, storage solutions, and mechanical systems required for kitchen and wardrobe designs.

CAD software generated open-kitchen interior design.

CAD software generated open-kitchen interior design.

Niches, Sub-Niches, and the Future

From all indications, the services provided by professional interior designers go beyond interior decoration and simple home décor tasks. For employment opportunities, it is good to dig deeper, because each niche can be further broken down into sub-niches. It is amazing how limitless the options are.

For example, in the hospitality design niche, interior designers can custom-design and supply branded linen, or, tailor and install window treatments for hotel bedrooms and lobbies. In lighting design, there is the option of selling uncommon floor, wall, and table lamps. And as a stage lighting expert, a talented designer can transform a simple event into something spectacular.

These are examples of sub-niches within an interior design niche and are areas any interior designer can fit into when charting a career path.

According to statistics, employment opportunities for interior designers will increase by 19% between now and 2020. Designers will be in higher demand and will be required to respond to consumer expectations of today and that of the future.

Residential and commercial interiors must meet certain conditions, such as being more functional, downsized, environmentally friendly, and more efficient. This only implies that the interior design industry will continue to flourish.

Professional Association to Join

The NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) is the highly coveted credential of choice for interior designers, so, if you are a beginner designer, a student of interior design, or a practising designer that is yet to sit for this professional exam, you must plan towards taking the NCIDQ Examination.

However, you must complete a formal program of study and go through a period of supervised work experience in the industry before being eligible to take the exam.

The examination comprises three sections:

  1. Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)
  2. Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)
  3. Interior Design Practicum (PRAC)

If you are preparing for your professional registration examination, or plan to set up your interior design firm, you may find Professional Practice for Interior Designers, recommended by the NCIDQ for exam preparations, extremely valuable.

This book has remained the leading choice for educators teaching interior design business practices, and also for interior designers pursuing advancement in their establishments.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 viryabo

Comments Are Welcome

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 21, 2013:

Your friend that's helping people downsize is certainly thinking out of the box. He/She is wise.

Clients don't have as much to splash around as they use to, so they like when their designer helps them save money whilst still giving a great service.

Its an interesting career that i enjoy tremendously, as it's like a hobby/career.

Thanks for the visit Dolores.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on January 20, 2013:

Being an interior designer sounds like a great career for a creative person. One designer I know has been hit by the economy as well as by changes in style preferences. Another is doing quite well, helping people downsize.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on July 29, 2010:

Thanks Sreeiit.


sreeiit on March 02, 2010:

Very good piece of writing.