Interior designer salary & career outlook

Are you a visionary decorator in your own house? Are you creative or artistic? Do you often have ideas about how to arrange physical spaces? If so, you might want to consider a career as an interior designer. As described by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers make "interior spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials." This can include houses, offices and public spaces. Interior design isn't just about making rooms look pretty — they must also meet the needs of those occupying the space.

Doing this means being able to work with a team of professionals, which may include builders, engineers, architects and, of course, the clients. Aspiring interior designers need excellent communication skills, proficiency as a creative artist and a thorough understanding of the technical aspects of architecture, building and safety codes, air quality, light and more. It's also important that you be someone who can visually conceive of a space, and understand how texture, lighting and other factors play into the overall design.

This kind of training is generally earned through a bachelor's degree in interior design, as well as a licensing process. The BLS indicates that the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits roughly 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design, and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredits more than 150 professional-level interior design programs.

Interior designer salary data

According to the BLS, as of May 2013, interior designers in America made a mean annual wage of $54,200, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $26,490 or less, and those in the 90th percentile or above making an annual wage of at least $89,060.

However, keep in mind that the industry in which an interior designer is employed may affect those salary numbers. According to the BLS, the top-paying industries for interior designers in America as of May 2013 were:

  • Federal executive branch: $73,980 annual mean wage
  • Other personal services (may include self-employed designers or those in small design firms): $64,710 annual mean wage
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises (business/commercial clients): $62,700 annual mean wage

Pay also varies by location. The top-paying states for interior designers in America, as of May 2013, were:

  1. District of Columbia: $78,390 annual mean wage
  2. Massachusetts: $68,400 annual mean wage
  3. New York: $64,610 annual mean wage

The top-paying metropolitan areas for interior designers in America as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:

  • Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA: $77,100 annual mean wage
  • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA $75,700 annual mean wage (This is also the area that the BLS says also had the second-highest concentration of employment of interior designers)
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division: $71,880 annual mean wage

Don't disregard location and industry when deciding if an interior design career is for you, since it may make a financial difference.

Job outlook for interior designers

Employment of interior designers in the United States is expected to grow 13 percent during the 2012-2022 period, which is about as fast as the national average for all occupations, according to the BLS. The largest part of this growth will take place in specialized design firms, where job growth is projected at 20 percent. Employment growth should be driven by increasing construction, a continuing desire for environmentally friendly/sustainable design and a desire to improve building accessibility.

Job prospects should be better in high-income areas, because "wealthy clients are more likely than others to engage in remodeling and renovating their homes," the BLS reports. Those who specialize in particular areas, such as those who emphasize kitchens and baths, may see greater prospects as well.

Certain states are expected to see faster growth than others, and according to state labor department data, the states with the best projected job growth between 2010 and 2020 are all in the Western U.S. These states include:

  • Utah: 32.3 percent projected growth
  • Colorado: 25.6 percent projected growth
  • Washington: 24.5 percent projected growth
  • Oregon: 24.0 percent project growth
  • Arizona: 22.9 percent projected growth
  • Montana: 22.3 percent projected growth

If artistic flair and business sense are in your bones, and you like the idea of joining growing career field that enables you to utilize your creativity and has lucrative potential, think about researching interior designer schools. It could be a great fit.


"Becoming an Interior Designer," American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), http://www.asid.org/content/becoming-interior-designer#.U_eAaWOjesA

Long Term Occupational Projections for Interior Designers, Projections Central,

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Interior Designers, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271025.htm

Interior Designers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,