So, you’ve decided on a career as an interior designer. What kind of money can you expect to make in this field? First of all, you need to look at what you’ll make when you enter the field versus what you can earn over the lifetime of your career. Interior design professionals, on average, made around $44,950 in May 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Those just entering the career field currently earn between $29,570 and $38,703—while those with twenty years or more experience made on average as much as $61,944, according to payscale.com.
The salaries of designers differ greatly depending on specialty, reputation, and type of employer. It also makes a big difference in salary if you work in certain specialties: designers in large specialized design and architectural firms typically enjoy more dependable salaries, although those designers who have found a marketable niche and work under contract earn more, if sometimes less stable, salaries of $35,725 to $60,870. Believe it or not, the industry employing the highest-paid individuals is our own Federal government (average $71,480 a year)! For all specialties, interior designers can increase their salaries with training in computer drafting programs by at least $10,000 annually.
College education, specifically a degree, has a marked effect on the amount of money a professional can earn. Although many fine accredited schools offer two- to three-year associate’s degrees, it’s well worth the time and investment to at least achieve a Bachelor’s degree at a college or university. A Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design degree enables an interior designer to have a salary ranging from $33,310 to $47,552; those who pass the examination and receive certification from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification can increase their earnings to up to $52,660 annually.
Where you work as an interior design professional makes a difference in salary, too. In May 2008, the highest-paid interior designers were most likely to be found in the cities of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Albany, New York, with salaries on the average between $73,450 and $99,770 a year. And when it comes to working in a company, designers should opt to “go large”: salaries for interior designers in companies with over 50,000 employees go up to $56,723 annually, compared to those in firms of less than ten employees-their yearly salaries top out, on average, at a little over $45,000.
So—how does all this stack up against the average American worker? According to the 2007 findings of the United States Census Bureau, the average salary in the United States is around $81,000 a year, taking into account all types of jobs and experience. If you are an interior designer with a college degree and several years of experience working for a large company in Grand Rapids, for example, you would probably have a salary right around the American average. The future for designers looks increasingly bright: the field is expected to increase by almost 20% as more clients-homeowners, businesses, even schools and hospitals-decide that they need the services of interior designers. Although competition is fierce in this field, salaries for interior designers should continue to keep pace.