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How Much Do Interior Designers Make Yearly? Interior Designer Salary

Interested in a career in interior design? Review current data on a designer’s annual salary and what factors can affect your earning potential.

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Do you find yourself mentally re-designing every space you enter? Us too. If you’re a budding interior designer who’s feeling hesitant to pursue this career full-time, we’re here to tell you (ahem: scream into your ear): Don’t let this dream stall out! In today’s job market, it can be tricky to accurately predict your income and future job possibilities, but don’t let the “what-ifs” stop you.

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Let’s demystify an interior designer’s salary so you can decide whether this career path is right for you. 

Interior Designer Jobs FAQ 

The amount you’ll make will vary depending on location, education, and experience. Still, we can keep this in mind while answering as many of your burning questions about the field of interior design as possible.

Does an Interior Designer Make As Much as an Interior Decorator?

Without getting too tripped up on the idea of labels, there are some distinctions to make between interior decorators and designers. Interior designers can perform all the tasks of an interior decorator, but are trained to go much further into the design process than decorating the surfaces of a building.

Designers work with architects and builders to make structural changes to a building and plan its design up to local codes. They have extensive knowledge of human behavior and how this behavior influences what spaces will need to provide. 

All this training and added responsibility means interior designers typically make more than interior decorators.

Does More Education Mean a Higher Salary?

The short answer: Not always. You may wonder what level of education is necessary to run a lucrative interior design business, and it really depends on your business goals. Although not every state requires a certification from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, most design firms will request it.

The NCIQ certification includes a prerequisite associate’s degree plus three years of work experience (two if you have a bachelor’s degree.) Going back to school for a master’s degree, however, isn’t necessary for the NCIDQ or to practice design.

In many states, freelancers don’t have to be certified through NCIDQ, but most self-employed interior designers find having this qualification lends credibility to their business. They also have some level of education, like graphic design knowledge or experience with computer-aided design programs.

This level of instruction is important for performing their duties for the client. You’ll need some type of training — be it online courses or college to learn these skills. How far you go depends on your personal goals. 

Get the interior design information most designers wish they’d known when they first started with BeSpoak School. BeSpoak School teaches all aspects of interior design, from business savvy to design styles. Lessons are enjoyable and easy to digest. Access case studies, design floor plans, and practice pitching clients. When you’re ready to look for your next client, browse through Spoak’s Job Fair.

Is It Better To Work for a Design Firm or To Freelance?

Whether you work for a design firm or freelance will depend on the type of design projects you prefer. Within the firm, there is potential to perform just one aspect of the design process, like drafting plans or 3-D modeling, which appeals to those who want to specialize. Each project may have multiple interior designers, who are paid according to their experience. They all work under one project manager, who will make significantly more annually. 

As a self-employed freelancer, you have to wear all of the hats: drafting a plan, communicating with clients and contractors, obtaining products, and making sure they are installed correctly. There is more overall responsibility, but you do have the advantage of choosing how many clients you will offer your design services to at a time.

Many self-employed interior designers do not work full-time; self-employment gives them this flexibility. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?

Does Specialization Increase Your Salary?

Beneath the vast interior design umbrella, there are numerous job titles you can specialize in other than residential design. Typically, the larger the number of people your design will service, the more you can expect to make. Focus areas like government building design, corporate design, and healthcare facility design all have a higher average salary than residential design. 

Receiving further certifications, like Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council, can increase your portfolio's desirability and potential salary range. Remember, every new experience and skill you gain will flesh out your portfolio. Be open to new opportunities and expanding your portfolio to work your way up in the field.

Are Interior Designers Paid an Hourly Wage or by the Job?

Interior designers who work with design firms are often paid hourly, with some projects requiring multiple designers who are each paid according to an experience-based pay scale. 

Junior designers make a lower hourly wage, and their superiors can make two to three times that amount. Rates for designers may start as low as $14.87 on the low end, while top professionals earn an estimated $47.63. Of course, this varies by city and state, so don’t hold us to these numbers! 

In contrast, commission-based pay is usually a small percentage of the total cost of the job. A five percent commission on a $20,000 interior design project would be $1,000. There is also a possibility of charging a flat fee for a project or a set fee for a design service package. As with most jobs, your years of experience will enable you to charge a higher hourly wage.

Do Interior Designers Earn Bonuses? 

While individual design firms may incentivize designers, a common part of a designer’s wage is materials and service markups. Since the cost of materials, such as home furnishings, is a separate bill given to clients by the firm (or self-employed designers), it is usually marked up above the discounted price the designer paid for the goods. A minimal discount may be given to the client, but a larger portion of the discount goes to the designer.

When markups are not involved, a designer may refer a business to their client and expect a referral fee that is a percentage of the cost of the product or service rendered. These discounts, markups, and fees are all common ways interior designers get paid. 

How Much Do Interior Designers Make Annually? 

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty: in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the entry-level base salary was around $35,000, while the average salary was $62,570. They found the top ten percent of interior designers made over $99,070, while half of all interior designers made at least $60,340. If interior design is what you truly love, there’s no better feeling than waking up and getting to do just that every day.

Does Where You Live Make a Difference?

The opportunities to make more as an interior designer follow the cost of living and national average income in an area. That means an interior designer in Los Angeles, CA, or New York City will probably make more than one in Baton Rouge, LA — so research your career based on the state you live in. 

In Which States Do Interior Designers Make More?

Let’s get an idea of the potential average yearly income for interior design in various states.

  • Massachusetts: $73,140
  • New York: $72,220
  • California: $70,290
  • District of Columbia: $79,420
  • Rhode Island: $77,250

The five states above tend to have the highest wages for interior designers, but, interestingly, the states with the highest employment level for interior designers are Texas, California, Illinois, Florida, and New York. 

Will Interior Design Work for You?

Whether or not you have decided to delve into the world of interior design, you now have a good idea of what kind of salary you can expect, at least initially. You are not totally at the whims of the job market; these numbers are just an average. Any designer will tell you that a strong work ethic, experience on the job, and satisfied clients are the key ingredients to growing a business — and that is all you! 

Photo Credit: (Left) Coastal Home by Decus Interiors


A Base Salary, Bonus & Benefits Breakdown for Interior Designers | CHRON

Here’s How Much Money Interior Designers Make In Every State | Forbes

What is LEED certification? | USGBC

27-1025 Interior Designers | BLS

Get advice and feedback from other interior designers in Spoak’s creative community. Having a network of like-minded design enthusiasts can be just the confidence boost your fledgling business needs to thrive. 

Date Posted
April 10, 2023



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