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How to Become an Interior Designer

By Michelle Ecker on August 06, 2020

How to Become an Interior Designer

If you want to become a professional interior designer, you probably have questions about what steps you need to take in order to get started. Diving into the professional creative industry can pose some questions about education requirements, because unlike other industries where you are required to have a degree from a college or university in order to begin working, interior designers are not always held to these same formalized educational standards. 

Not only that, there is a great deal of conflicting information in circulation about what interior designers are required to do before getting started, so you might be looking for some clarity that hopefully the following list can provide. 

5 Steps to Becoming an Interior Designer

  1. Find the right training for your goals. As we mentioned before, there are no formal, national educational prerequisites technically required of interior designers who want to start working with clients, unless you explicitly want to call yourself a “Certified Interior Designer.” That being said, if you do not have any prior knowledge or experience in interior design or decorating, and if you do not have a portfolio of work yet, it would be practical to receive some type of training before you start working with clients and advertising yourself as a professional. You can look for an affordable interior design course online, or take classes locally wherever you are able to find in-person interior design training. 
  2. Understand how to use industry software. It’s worth noting that in today’s industry, some clients or design firms might require you to be proficient in an interior design software program. If you are working independently, you do not necessarily need to know how to use these programs (like AutoCAD or SketchUp). However, if you suspect you would feel more confident as a designer if you learned these software as well, note that NYIAD does also offer an AutoCAD course and a SketchUp course, and if you enroll in 2 programs through the school (like the interior design course and the AutoCAD course), you can receive a 25% discount on your second course.
  3. Decide whether or not you want to earn certification. If you do want to become a “Certified Interior Designer” the state you reside in will likely require you to receive a formal interior design licensure by passing a certification exam. You can look into state licensing requirements for interior designers if you are interested in learning more about the rules in your state. Many online interior design classes like NYIAD’s are designed to prepare you for licensing exams like these. 
  4. Register and prepare for any certification exams. Getting certified typically requires purchasing and scheduling an exam, and then passing that exam. Unless you have received prior training or have personal interior design experience, you will very likely need to study or receive some type of training in order to sufficiently prepare to pass an exam like this, the same way a lawyer would need to study or attend school before being prepared to pass the BAR, etc.
  5. Study with an industry-recognized program. NYIAD's Interior Design Course is certified by the Designer Society of America, which means that NYIAD Interior Design Students and Graduates are eligible for certification through the DSA's Residential Interior Design Qualification Certification (RIDQC). If you enroll in NYIAD’s interior design course, at the time of your enrollment you can add on the option to take the RIDQC exam as well, and you will receive a discount on your exam cost (the exam typically costs $1,895, but NYIAD students can register for $495 if they are interested in eventually taking a certification exam in addition to taking their NYIAD course). 

How Does NYIAD’s Online Interior Design Course Work? 

Each unit of NYIAD’s online interior design course includes reading assignments and a great deal of HD video lectures, design tours and tutorials. You will watch professional interior designers walk through showrooms, talk about decorating concepts, discuss their own design careers and more. 

You will also complete interactive projects such as room condition checklists or client lifestyle questionnaires. Further along, you will begin to do mock designs of your own, starting with the basics of room sketching. By the end of the course, you will actually graduate with a small beginners’ portfolio of sharable projects you should be able to use with your first clients.

NYIAD Interior Design Course Reviews 

If you’re thinking about taking our interior design course but still feel confused or unsure about what to expect, reading NYIAD course reviews shared by current students or graduates is a great way to find feedback.

When we found out that Texas-based design blogger Jessica Conner enrolled in our interior design course, we asked her to document her honest experience with each of the six units of the program on her blog. 

“I am so incredibly thankful to NYIAD for trusting me to represent them through this course,” she shared along with her NYIAD Interior Design Course Review. “The school has been so helpful at helping me navigate something that is truly near and dear to my heart. If you have any questions about the course please feel free to email me, I’d love to help!” (You can reach out to her with any questions at [email protected]) Four units into the program she shared, 

“Let me start off by saying I am about halfway done with the course and I feel very equipped to handle clients and give my professional opinion. I have learned so much that I feel very confident halfway in! Take the leap, plunge, jump whatever you want to call it. If you truly feel that tug in your heart that this is something you want to pursue… DO it!”

In July 2016 another design blogger, this one Manhattan-based, named Jacqueline Clair enrolled in NYIAD’s Complete Course in Interior Design. She also decided to document the student experience on her blog. In one section she shares, 

“There’s a lot of debate out there over whether or not a formal Bachelor’s degree is necessary in order to be a successful interior designer,” Clair shared. “Some of the best designers out there like Nate Berkus, Erin Gates and Lauren Liess don’t have Bachelor’s degrees in interior design. Lauren Liess who is now a hugely successful and talented designer and author, took the NYIAD course and as far as I know that’s her only formal training. If that’s not an endorsement I don’t know what is! 

Beyond the degree versus certification question, price is also worth considering when you weigh your long term goals and current financial options. “NYIAD’s entire program cost a little over $1,200,” Clair continued. “For comparison’s sake, the New York School of Interior Design costs $915 PER CREDIT. Their Basic Interior Design program is 24 credits - 24 times 915 = a little under $22,000. Yikes!” 

Want to Enroll in NYIAD’s Interior Design Course? 

If you are interested in starting a career as a professional interior designer and you think that NYIAD could be a good fit for you, feel free to get started whenever you’re ready. Our courses are entirely online and self-paced, meaning there are no start dates, class times or project due dates- you make your own schedule from home. You can enroll and get started online, or call 1-800-583-1742 to get started over the phone with one of our student services representatives.

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