Interior Designer Salary Trends
- With NCIDQ
- No NCIDQ
- With NCIDQ
- No NCIDQ
Salary in $USD (thousands) as of 2016
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.FACT: Did you know that average Interior Designer salaries are 172% higher for jobs requiring the NCIDQ Certificate? Click To Tweet
According to Payscale.com, the US national salary range is from $30,744 – $63,389 for a median of $43,870 and $44,391 in Canada. And we can expect to see this increase over time with more economic growth and low unemployment. 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 city here.
Want more information on this? You can view more national estimates at the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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One of the most important steps you can take to make that kind of 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 cost of the NCIDQ Exam. With exam fees, books, and prep courses you may spend around $2000.00.
But simply looking at the cost of the exam without 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, it's still a deal.
So, about a year 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.
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 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 become an expectation that a designer has their NCIDQ Certificate. And if not, why? Most mid to senior level designers have already earned their NCIDQ Certificate.
For example, several years ago before I started Qpractice, I interviewed with some top level companies like Kohler and Swarovski. One question I specifically asked was “What does Kohler value?”
And as I expected, I learned that having the NCIDQ Certificate was more valuable to them than having a license. Because once you have the NCIDQ Certificate, you can get your license just about anywhere. Other factors that can work in your favor are a having a master’s degree and LEED credentials.
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.
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.
So, not having earned your NCIDQ Certificate will limit your opportunities, not only in the present but also the future.