Salary in $USD (thousands) as of 2020
So you want to be an interior designer, and smartly – you want to know more about interior designer salaries. How much can you expect to earn with training, a degree, and the NCIDQ Certificate?
An interior designer has a broader role and responsibilities in the design of interior spaces as compared to a decorator. An interior designer focuses not just on the aesthetics but the goals and function of the space, and is qualified to work with building codes for businesses and commercial spaces and well as picking colors and furniture.
Average Interior Designer Salary
According to Payscale.com, the average US salary for an interior designer is $49,474 USD and from neuvoo.ca, the $56,550 CDN in Canada.
ZipRecruiter.com has this broken down even further with the US median for NCIDQ Certificate holders at $55,811 and those without certification or other credentials at $51,811. And other sources, including the US Department of Labor, expect these salaries to increase over time. With the right combination of education, experience and examination, a designer who is an owner or partner in a design firm can earn six figures annually.
Check your location: NCIDQ Interior Design Salaries in the United States, and NCIDQ Interior Designer salaries in Canada.
Want more information? You can view more US national estimates for the interior design profession at the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, where US national wages are estimated to start from a low of $31,970 to a high of $96,470.
Canadians may contact the Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) offices at email@example.com
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Effect of NCIDQ Certificate on Interior Design Salaries
One of the most important steps you can take to make progress in your career is to pass the NCIDQ Exam.
Yet, one of the concerns I hear from quite a few designers is worry about the overall costs of the NCIDQ Exam. With exam fees, books, and prep courses you may spend upwards of $2000.00.
But looking only at the cost of the NCIDQ Exam without also looking at the potential benefits is shortsighted. Especially when having your NCIDQ Certificate can have such a huge impact on your career options.
Plus compared to other professional exams like architecture, the costs associated with acquiring your NCIDQ Certificate is still a bargain.
A few years ago, I started researching the value that having the NCIDQ Certificate brings to the table for jobs. Especially after one of our members was able to get more than 35% increase in her salary after passing her exams.
Regarding salary benefits to having NCIDQ Certification, the American Society of Interior Designer’s (ASID)’s 2019 “Interior Design Salaries and Benefits General Report” states that NCIDQ “Certification makes a powerful impact,” noting the median salary for those with the NCIDQ Certificate is roughly $16,000 USD higher than for those in the same position without it.
Similarly, a recent IDC (Interior Designers of Canada) report shows an approximately $10,000 CDN higher salary than the national median for their member respondents along with an almost 70% rate of those same respondents holding the NCIDQ Certificate.
While it varies from firm to firm, there’s an expectation that if you have more than 3 years of experience, you're either licensed and/or NCIDQ Certificate holder or moving towards that as a goal for the next year.
For example, a position may call for a junior designer with 2 – 3 years of experience out of school. They would be running several small projects on their own, with the expectation that they have their NCIDQ Certificate within one year.
For someone with 5 – 7 years or more experience, it’s expected that a designer has the NCIDQ Certificate. And if not, why? Most mid to senior level designers have already earned their NCIDQ Certificate.
Before I started Qpractice, I had recently interviewed with some top level companies like Kohler and Swarovski. One question I specifically asked was “What does (insert company name) value?”
And as I expected, I learned that candidates who had the NCIDQ Certificate were more valuable than those having a license. Because once you have the NCIDQ Certificate, you can get your license/registration/certification just about anywhere. Other factors that can work in your favor are a having an advanced degree and/or other credentials, such as LEED.
When I spoke with recruiters I learned that prior work experience, the caliber of companies an interior designer has worked for, and the level and quality of their projects are most important. However, when several job candidates have similar qualifications for a position, a company will tend to hire the designer that has their NCIDQ Certificate. NCIDQ Certification can tip the scale if other factors are equal. And many government job postings list the NCIDQ Certificate as one of the application requirements.
While having earned an NCIDQ Certificate is expected in commercial, hospitality, healthcare and senior living interior design, residential design has been an exception — especially if the job candidate has a fantastic portfolio.
However, even in residential design, the lack of an NCIDQ Certificate can have consequences. I've also found that residential designers who have built a business are often contacted to do commercial work. And sometimes they have to turn those jobs down, because they lack the credentials. In some areas, residential designers are finding that having the NCIDQ Certificate is almost a given to be successful in states with interior design legislation. It helps them stand apart from others who do not have this qualification.
So why are you waiting? Take the next step towards even greater career and earnings potential. Work towards becoming an NCIDQ Certificate holder. In the end, not having your NCIDQ Certificate will limit your opportunities, not only in the present but also the future.