List of Skills Needed for a Career in Interior Design

Woman having a Skype meeting
••• Gary Houlder/Taxi/Getty Images

If you love design, decor and creating cohesive color schemes, interior design could be an excellent career choice for you. A designer is hired by individuals, companies and real estate agents to decorate spaces, such as offices, living rooms or bedrooms. They take into account the client's taste, budget and the space to come up with a look that matches the customer's needs. 

What Do Interior Designers Do?

Interior designers do not typically handle extensive renovations, but instead, manage cosmetic changes. For instance, rather than installing new granite countertops or knocking down walls, an interior designer chooses paint colors for the walls, selects the styles of furniture and coordinates the colors for drapes, curtains, and accent pieces. 

To be an interior designer requires very specialized skills, creativity, and excellent communication. 

What Skills Do Interior Designers Need?

As a designer, you will meet with clients to discuss their vision, so it's essential that you communicate effectively and listen attentively. It's important to have a good artistic eye and can do some simple sketching to convey ideas to the client for his or her approval. 

A design degree or certification is helpful, as you need to be knowledgeable about complementary colors, fabrics, and finishes. You need to be highly organized and capable of managing budgets; clients are often on strict monetary limits and cannot afford to go over. 

What is the Work Like?

The work of an interior designer is typically very irregular, with long evening and weekend hours. You will spend a great deal of time traveling from client site to client site and to home maintenance and furniture stores to choose items. 

Most designers are freelancers, meaning they are self-employed rather than belonging to a firm. Junior designers can usually make between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, depending on their market. More senior designers can command salaries between $60,000 and $80,000. Some niche designers command incomes in the high six-figures, particularly if they cater to very affluent markets. 

Breaking Into the Industry

Besides education and essential skills, interior designers often need some experience to break into the business full-time. Many intern or apprentice as unpaid workers for established designers. Others will volunteer their work for friends and family in order to build a portfolio to show to prospective clients. 

Going to trade shows and professional conferences is an essential part of ongoing career development. Interior design trends are constantly changing, so it's important for designers at every level to stay abreast of the latest styles. Joining professional groups can also help you meet leaders in the industry and even find mentors, who can help you meet new clients and get established as a freelancer. 

For those with a creative eye and a flair for design, interior design can be an exciting career path. It requires a unique set of skills and education in order to succeed and presents unique challenges to newcomers in the industry.