Do Interior Designers Need Licenses & Degrees? (U.S. Rules)

In Furnitureby Maria Fredgaard

If you are considering being an interior designer, you are probably wondering:

Do Interior Designers need a license or degree?

In some states, you will need a degree or a license while other states won’t. While there are many states in the United States that don’t require a license, there are a few, such as Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Washington, D.C. and even in Puerto Rico, where commercial spaces will require one.

There are very specific rules or information on this subject that we have compiled here for you. Check them out!

Licensing:

To be an interior designer in a residential space, you will not need to be licensed. In any U.S. State, you can be an interior designer without a license in any residentially zoned building.

However, if you choose to work in a commercial building the rules are a little different.

Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico:

If you are hired to do any design work for a commercial space in Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, you would require a license to work alone in that space.

Commercial spaces include but are not limited to:

  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Shopping Malls
  • Retail Stores
  • Office Buildings
  • Medical Centers
  • Sports Facilities
  • Common Areas of Residential Complexes such as Apartments or Condos

If you have accepted a job in any commercial location in the previously mentioned States and Territories, you would want to make sure you hold the proper licenses or you are accompanied by someone with the proper licensing.

If you intend to bring a licensed professional with you on this job, it doesn’t have to just be a licensed interior designer.

Licensed professionals that can assist you with a commercial project can include:

  • Architect
  • Engineer
  • Licensed Interior Designer

Despite these regulations in regards to commercial properties, these states will legally allow unregistered interior designers to work in residential spaces without supervision.

You will also want to make sure that if you intend to work in any of these locations, your license or the license of your professional supervisor corresponds to the state you are choosing to work in.

Make sure if you are licensed, it will be sufficient for the state in which you intend to do design work.

You may even be required to get different licenses or registrations for different areas or counties.

All Other U.S. States:

All other U.S. States allow unlicensed interior designers to work in both residential and commercial spaces alone and without supervision.

This means that you do not have to take any tests or prove any certification to become an interior designer in the United States.

This does not mean that you should not consider becoming certified, registered, or even getting a degree, just that it is not a requirement to work in this field.

Business Licenses:

Even though you do not need to be licensed as an interior designer to work, you will still likely need a business license to own your own design firm.

Make sure you go through the proper channels for your state and any state you wish to design in.

Certification:

Even though you do not need an interior designer license to become an interior designer in the United States, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider getting licensed or some other form of formal education.

Yes, you can just start getting clients and decorating spaces, but you will be set apart from the competition if you take additional steps to prove that you know what you are talking about.

One of these steps is to get certified.

If you get certified in interior design you will set yourself apart from the other interior designers in your area.

Why Get Certified?

There is no question that getting certified as an interior designer will help differentiate you from your competition.

Being a certified, or registered, interior designers will show your clients that you are dedicated to the more technical aspects of your job and are interested in further education in the field.

With a certification, you will signal to others that you are knowledgeable about industry standards as well as codes for public health, safety, and welfare.

This can help to create confidence between you and your customer.

How to Get Certified:

You can get voluntarily registered in interior design to help your credibility in the interior design field.

This process can help you with your career, but it is not a quick and easy process. To become certified, you need to get both education and real-life experience in interior design.

To get certified in interior design, the requirements will vary by state but in general, they all require some education and work experience before you take the test.

Get Your Degree:

The first step in getting certified in interior design is to get your degree. Having a degree will allow you to meet the requirements that are necessary to qualify for the test.

If you do not have a degree or the required classes, then you will need more work experience to qualify for the tests.

Get Some Work Experience:

No matter what you do, you will need work experience if you want to get certified as an interior designer. Having a degree will mean you need to get less work experience to take the exam, but it does not mean that you won’t need any work experience.

Your education will dictate what you need in terms of work experience.

For interior design, you will need one of the following combinations of work experience and education:

Education Level: Work Experience:
Bachelor or Master Degree (CIDA or Non-CIDA) 3,520 Work Hours (2 Years Full Time)
Bachelor or Master Degree in ‘Other Major’ 3,520 Work Hours (2 Years Full Time)
Associate Degree, Certificate, or Diploma 5,280 Work Hours (3 Years Full Time)

*CIDA: Council for Interior Design Accreditation

Pass Your Exam:

The last thing you need to do to get certified is to pass your certification exam.

The most important thing to do when you plan to take the exam is to know everything that is required. Make sure you read the instructions carefully, know all deadlines, and be sure to get all the documents that are required.

When you are scheduled to take the exam, make sure you are prepared. You will need to pass all portions of the exam in the required time limits.

Getting a Degree:

You can also just get a degree in interior design. This is not a requirement to be an interior designer, but you will have better luck getting a job if you have a degree.

If you do not intend to work for yourself, you will want to prove to your potential employer that you are qualified to work in the interior design profession.

Most employers are looking for someone who has a Bachelor’s Degree. This does not have to be in interior design specifically, but an interior degree would prove to your employer that you can handle yourself in the field.

Another degree that would be a viable option for you is an art degree. Even though you do not have the interior design training specifically, you will still learn to have an eye for art and color. This can also be good for potential employers to see.

Your Portfolio:

One of the most important things that you need when looking for interior design jobs, whether that be with a firm, or just while trying to secure clients, is your portfolio.

Regardless of your education, what clients want to see are your results. This means that you will want to have a professional portfolio at all times when working with clients.

Your clients do not only want to see what you can do, but they also want to see if your design and style matches theirs. If they like what they see in your portfolio, they will be less likely to care if you are not certified or have a degree in interior design.

Drawing Skills:

You will also want to practice your drawing skills so that you can communicate your ideas to your clients.

Having a degree or some form of education in art can help with this.

Being able to draw what you are thinking for your client will help them share in your vision for their space. This will also allow you both to give each other feedback and be more likely to have a finished product that everyone can be happy with.

Final Thoughts:

Even though there are not any real requirements when it comes to having a degree or certification in interior design, you would be better off getting these things.

This can make you more attractive to potential employers and clients which will help you to secure jobs.

Having these things can make people more confident in your skills and abilities as well as your eye for design and dedication to the field.

It will also allow you to work in a commercial capacity in specific states without having someone there to supervise you.

Make sure if you intend to work in a specific area or state, you know all the rules or requirements that are necessary for that area. This can mean looking at each county individually.

You definitely want to make sure that you are following any requirements if you intend to own your own interior design business.

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