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How to Become a Professional Interior Designer (Earn a Degree)

Updated on August 30, 2017
viryabo profile image

Practicing as a professional interior designer for 30+ years, I do design & build projects & offer tips on how to do simple design tasks.

Can you become an interior designer without having a degree or diploma in interior design?

Some argue that yes you can, but if you want to become a professional designer that’s certified, then you’ll need a degree in interior design to achieve that.

Being an interior decorator is different because you can become one, even without a diploma or degree. Many who are happen to be individuals who have a great taste and unusual style when it comes to decorating interior spaces, residentially or commercially. However, being an interior designer is different.

Interior design is the study of interior space and how we process the space. It is about the art of designing a room or the entire interior of a residential or commercial building. It is a dominant and essential part of our daily lives which affects the way we live, how we work, play, and even heal.

It can be described as a science of understanding people's behaviour so that we, as interior designers, can create a functional and efficient space within buildings. They don't just enhance the look of a room, they enhance its function as well.

What Distinguishes a Professional Interior Designer from Interior Decorators?

What differentiates a self-taught decorator from a professional interior designer is the schooling. The latter requires specific schooling and a formal training because it usually involves studying drawing, space planning, computer-aided design (CAD), furniture design, lighting design, renovations, restorations, and remodelling, interior architecture, colour, textiles and more. It also involves some training.

On the other hand, even though no formal schooling is required to become an interior decorator, there are many programs and courses available for learning. Courses covered often focus mostly on colour, fabrics, room decor, furniture styles and refurbishment, window treatments, purchases, and more. It hardly goes beyond that.

Upon graduating, interior designers often apprentice with a registered and established interior designer before moving on to create their own companies.

In many cases, depending on where you reside, professionals are required to pass an examination and become registered with a governing council before they can be called certified interior designers.

Professionals in the field often work closely with architects, civil engineers, and building contractors to help achieve the look a client desires, whether that client needs a design for a residential home, an office, a hotel, restaurant, or any other interior space.

Interior decorators generally don’t work with contractors or architects as any structural work is often completed before they come on board. However, they do work with furniture makers, upholsterers, and other industry professionals.

What You Need to Become a Professional

To become a professional designer, you’ll need the complete which is generally split into 4 main parts with each part having its own merit and professional qualification. You can always decide on how far you wish to go in terms of its education. The parts are as follows:

  1. Diploma in interior design and decoration
  2. HND interior design
  3. BA interior design
  4. Masters Program in interior design

1. Diploma in Interior Design and Decoration

This is the first part of an interior design program which also covers interior decoration courses. In this course, you will focus mainly on residential decoration also known as home decor.

The study duration is about 12 months depending on where you study. In some schools, you can do it in less the time.

You can opt to enrol as a distance learning student for this part of the profession but this may take as long as 18 to 24 months depending on where you study and the available time you have, especially if you have a full-time job, you are raising a family, or caring for someone.

Obtaining a diploma in interior design is a great way to get introduced into the industry.

2. HND Interior Design

The HND course is the next stage of interior design education and can be studied immediately after obtaining a Diploma or at a later date. The course duration is 2 years of university or 60-semester credits.

After completing your HND course you will be required to complete a final major project which will form a good part of your final grade.

These projects are a culmination of all your course studies including everything that you will have learned in the 2 years of study.

3. Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design

B.A. Interior Design is the third part and can be studied after completing the HND program. In most colleges, it may be divided into modules. The subjects normally covered in these schools are as follows: that will cover topics such as:

  • Drawing
  • Computer Graphics
  • Drafting for Interior Design
  • Survey of Interior Design
  • Lighting Design
  • Textile Principles for Interior Design
  • Presentation Techniques

Internship training is also an important part of the program because it imparts practical training in the students. You can complete this course in 2 to 3 years of study depending on the school and its curriculum.

On completion of this course, you will now become a professional interior designer.

4. Masters Program

This is a post-graduate program in interior design and is a bit more challenging than the BA program. It will prepare you for top-notch professional careers in the interior architecture and interior design industries.

The post-graduate program covers major topics that include:

  • Fundamentals & Theory of Interior Design
  • Visualisation & Design Communication
  • History & Development of Style
  • Interior Lighting
  • Space Planning
  • Building Construction for Interior Designers
  • Materials & Finishes
  • Professional Practice

These may vary slightly from one institution to the other, but the principles behind each topic remain the same.

If you plan to establish yourself with the major high-earners - architectural firms, the real estate industry, government institutions, or the top private practices, this is for you.

How Far Do You Plan to Go With Your Interior Design Study?

See results

Earning an Interior Design Degree Helps Build Up Your Creative Skills

If you intend to go the ‘whole hog’, interior design study programs can be successfully completed within 4 years if you can be diligently dedicated to your studies.

Some universities accept the transfer of credits from Associates to Bachelors program, exempting the similar courses.

In your final major project, you will learn to build on your prior knowledge and design skills, including those gained from the Diploma and HND courses. After, you will be able to pursue a specialist/niche area of interior design of your choice.

Your final project is a great way of entering the industry as a professional interior designer, where you will be expected to work independently and autonomously within the building industry.

© 2009 viryabo


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    • viryabo profile image

      viryabo 4 years ago

      Just visited the site. I like it and its a great opportunity to seize as its a free online interior decorating course. Its a good starting point for aspiring designers and decorators, and they can proceed further if they decided that its what they really want to pursue.

      Thanks for the link.

      And thanks for the visit and compliments Caerleongold.

    • caerleongold profile image

      caerleongold 4 years ago

      Thanks for the fantastic Hub! I've recently started learning more about interior design so it's great to see more about the formal qualifications available.

      Out of interest, have you ever read the interior design information on ? (it's not my site btw, just the first place I found when learning online)

      What do you think of them?

    • viryabo profile image

      viryabo 5 years ago

      Thanks Lindsays.

    • lindsays5624 profile image

      lindsays5624 5 years ago

      There are some great ideas here. Really informative.

    • careerguidance` profile image

      careerguidance` 7 years ago from chandigarh

      I see your hub page it is very attractive as compare to the other hub pages and i got lot of idea from your hub page for write hub page and that's very beneficial for me and everyone this is reason that every person like your hub page. Employers say they are impressed by job candidates who have excellent communication skills, good grooming habits, and relevant work guidance

    • profile image

      sreeiit 7 years ago

      That's really good info, thanks for sharing.

    • viryabo profile image

      viryabo 8 years ago

      Hi Keira, what's up? and how's it going with you?

      Thanks for your visit and your nice comments.


    • keira7 profile image

      keira7 8 years ago

      Hello Viryabo, always a big fan of your hubs.Thanks. Take care and I see you very soon :) God Bless.