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 interior design compared to a decorator. An interior designer focuses not just on aesthetics but also on the goals and function of the space. Interior Designers are also qualified to work in code-regulated jurisdictions for business and commercial facilities.
Salaries for interior designers vary by the duties of the position and level of experience. Qpractice investigated the average salaries for positions ranging from Assistant/Junior Designers who earn around USD 47,000 per year to Director level earning at 6 figures and higher.
According to Payscale.com, the average US salary for an interior designer is USD 50,475, and from Talent.com, $50,700 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 $51,197. And other sources, including the US Department of Labor, expect these salaries to increase over time. Thus, 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.
IIDA's 2020 survey data shows a further increase in average salary from the previous report in 2019. However, the amount of growth varies by area, certifications, and type of design firm:
- Annual base salaries between $60,000 and $99,000.
- Higher reported salaries in the West and Northeast.
- Multidisciplinary design firms reported the highest employee average salaries and best benefits.
- NCIDQ, LEED, or CID Certifications raised median salaries by $17,000.
Your location will also determine your salary level. Note the differences in salaries across the US, based upon the US average salaries through Indeed.com. Some areas of the country will pay higher than the US national average.
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. For example, US national wage estimates start from a low of $31,970 to $96,470.
Canadians may also contact the Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) offices at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 significant impact on your career options.
Plus, compared to other professional exams like architecture, the costs associated with acquiring your NCIDQ Certificate are 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 a more than 35% increase in her salary after passing her exams.
In 2019, the American Society of Interior Designer’s “Interior Design Salaries and Benefits General Report” reported the median salary for those with the NCIDQ Certificate at USD 16,000 higher than for those in the same position without it. The 2021 IIDA Survey reported certifications increased salaries by $17,000.
Similarly, a recent IDC (Interior Designers of Canada) report showed 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.
In addition, from IDC's Benchmarking and Best Practices Report, published in March 2020:
- 87% of Interior Designs surveyed receive continuing education support from their employer
- 50% of Interior Designs surveyed receive performance bonuses from their employer
While it varies from firm to firm, there’s an expectation that if you have more than three years of experience, you're either registered, certified, or licensed and an NCIDQ Certificate holder. Or you're moving towards that as a goal for the following 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 independently, expecting 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 having an advanced degree 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, they will hire the designer with their NCIDQ Certificate. Thus, 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.
Having earned an NCIDQ Certificate is expected in commercial, hospitality, healthcare, and senior living interior design. But residential design has been an exception in the past, 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 get requests from their clients to do commercial work. And sometimes, they've had to turn those jobs down because they lack the credentials. Residential designers may find the NCIDQ Certificate critical to success in states with interior design legislation. It helps them stand apart from others who do not have this qualification.
So why are you waiting? In the end, not having your NCIDQ Certificate will limit your opportunities. This can hurt your job prospects now, but also in the future.
Take the next step towards a more remarkable career and higher earnings potential. Work towards becoming an NCIDQ Certificate holder.