June 22, 2024

David Sprouls, president of NYSID, recommends doing as many internships as possible, in a variety of areas. “If you have a specific interest, definitely do an internship but be open and explore. You never know,” he says, noting that it’s valuable to be able to “test out” specific aspects of the profession before seeking a full-time design job. Internships allow you to take classroom knowledge and apply it in practical ways, while also learning how to navigate an office environment. Firms are more likely to hire candidates who have been exposed to aspects of the culture of a design studio before graduating and obtaining an entry-level design role.

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Again, rely on the expertise of career counselors to help you secure an internship that coincides with your areas of interest. But don’t be too hyper-focused on any particular subject at this point; instead, consider a wide range of interests within the interior design field. Keep an open mind to different aspects of the industry. You might surprise yourself: Maybe you think you want to focus on retail design, for instance, but hospitality ends up piquing your curiosity. In this early phase of your design career, it best suits you to have a broad base of experience before ruling out any possibilities.

In addition to internship experience, mentorship can also help ignite your career. The IIDA offers a national program that pairs more than 1,000 students with mentors annually. Headley explains how the IIDA mentorship program has evolved: “Students shadow a professional for a day, attending client meetings, presentations, learning about office culture, et cetera. It’s a glimpse into the working world and provides the opportunity for a valuable connection even after the program ends,” she says, adding, that “IIDA pivoted to a virtual mentorship program during the pandemic. This allowed students to be able to connect with a design professional and learn about the industry remotely.”

Master essential interior design skills

There’s more to being an interior designer than creativity, impeccable taste, and a keen designer’s eye. “Effective communication goes a long way in every aspect of a designer’s life, from landing the interview to getting the job and being promoted throughout your career,” Headley offers. “The art of storytelling is critical when it comes to explaining a concept or showcasing the design in the earliest stages. That is something that needs to start in class when students are presenting their projects.”

Organizational, time management, project management, and communication skills are all prerequisites for the job, as is some very specific technical knowledge. While mastery of drawing and perspective are fundamental for every interior designer, computer-aided design now is as well. CAD technology—in the form of computer software such as Autodesk AutoCAD, CorelCAD, SmartDraw, ARCHICAD, DraftSight, and CAD Pro, among others—allows you to render your design ideas in 2D and 3D models with proper dimensions, colors, texture, and other design details.

In addition to CAD, other computer software that today’s interior designers are expected to know include SketchUp, a basic 3D-modeling computer program; Autodesk 3Ds Max with its easy-to-learn interface for 3D rendering and simulating interiors; Autodesk Revit, which is highly technical in nature and created specifically for A&D professionals for Building Information Modeling to allow users to quickly make elevations, sections, and plans; and Infurnia, a feature-rich, complex interior design program. An interior design professional who is well-versed in these software tools will have a definite advantage over the competition.

Obtain proper interior design certification

At the moment, 28 states require licensure for interior designers, which includes passing the NCIDQ exam. NCIDQ is the most common interior design certification, recognized in the United States and Canada as a benchmark for proficiency in the profession. In order to qualify to take the NCIDQ exam, you must first earn an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree and complete a certain number of hours of work experience depending on the level of education. Comprising three parts—the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX), the Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX), and the practicum—the NCIDQ exam covers subjects such as construction standards, design application, building systems and codes, project coordination, and contract administration. You may take the first part—the IDFX—once you’ve graduated from design school even if you haven’t completed all the required work hours. The IDPX, meanwhile, is available to you once you’ve completed both your education and work requirements, and the practicum is the final exam. Fees for each part of the exam are paid separately.

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