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Do I Need a Degree to Become an Interior Designer?

interior design

Short answer: no. Learn how to launch your interior design career degree-free.

Words by 

Lyden Claire Killip

Published on 

October 10, 2023

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Starting a career as an interior designer requires you to showcase your skills and experience within the interior design industry. Studying interior or architecture is a traditional way of doing so. But it is not the only way.

Whilst you'll be competing against candidates with bachelor's degrees in interior design or more, there are other steps you can take to showcase your relevant skills and, most importantly, passion for the interior design industry. With the right skills and knowledge, you can land a role as a junior interior designer in an established firm or even begin building your own interior design business, with no degree required.

Follow these steps to learn more about starting a career in interior design and how to become an interior designer without a degree.

How to become an interior designer without a degree

1. Equip yourself with the necessary skills

Interior design is a highly skilled profession that requires a broad skillset of organisation, communication, and creativity. Interior design projects have a lot of moving parts so being diligent and organised is essential to keep the project on track. You'll also be responsible for liaising with both clients and suppliers, so communication and people management skills are invaluable.

Creativity and an eye for design is innate, but it can be trained. Visit trade shows, read interior design trade publications, and practice your craft in your own home—the more you expose yourself to the industry and put your skills to the test, the better you will become.

As well as developing the soft skills required as an interior designer, you'll need to level up your knowledge of interior design tools and software. Many interior designers use software and 3D technology to illustrate their designs and it is useful to have basic drawing skills to hand-draw initial concepts. Gaining basic proficiency in these skills will give you a head start, try signing up to courses both online and in-person.

2. Find interior design work experience

The best way to hone your interior design skills is to practice. There is an abundance of entry-level interior design positions on offer, but as you lack experience and formal training, an apprenticeship/work experience could be a better first step.

You can connect with large interior design firms, or approach independent interior designers. It might be easier to find placements with bigger, more stablished interior design studios but independent designers may welcome an extra pair of hands and you'll likely gain more practical experience.

Soak up any opportunity you can to gain knowledge and experience in the interior design industry (or adjacent fields). Use work experience as a foundation to slowly hone your skills and decide that interior design is the right industry for you.

3. Find an interior design mentor

Being a newbie in the interior design industry can be daunting, but an interior design mentor can ease the nerves and provide you with an excellent head start in your career as an interior designer. Mentors are industry experts with years of experience, ready and willing to share all that they have learnt.

Mentors can offer practical advice on how to reach out to potential clients, tricks to negotiate with suppliers, and can offer you feedback on your design work. But a mentor offers much more that training. Having a mentor is also a great way to build your professional network—meeting suppliers and potential clients. It can also lead to various work collaborations, exposing you to different styles and themes.

4. Build your interior design portfolio

Your portfolio is your opportunity to showcase all your skills to potential employees and/or prospective clients. design skills. Visual proof of your work is far more valuable than a written CV in the world of interior design.

Your portfolio should showcase your unique design style and the best bits of your work so far. If you do not have any completed projects to show off, you can include illustrations and concepts in your portfolio. To build your portfolio,  why not provide free or discounted interior design work for your family and friends. Or, if possible, get creative in your own home. Your designs don't have to be extravagant and polished but should serve as evidence of your commitment and vision.

5. Start networking

The first step to becoming a real interior designer, is to tell the world (and yourself) that you are one. Start with your family and friends, invite them to a get-together and introduce them to your new creative venture. From there, set up your website and social media accounts and start promoting your work to the public.

Don't be afraid to reach out to professionals in the interior design space via Instagram, LinkedIn or email. Be polite, and always include a clear ask: do you want specific advice? Are you asking a question about their work? Are you looking for an internship opportunity? Be specific and confident—don't ask, don't get!

It is also a good idea to attend industry trade shows. Here, you will meet lots of industry professionals and be exposed to all the latest trends in the world of interior design.

Best of luck!

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