Are you hoping to become an interior designer, but don’t have a degree in interior design? The good news is, having a degree in interior design is not a prerequisite to beginning a career in this industry. With the right skills and experience, it’s entirely possible to establish yourself as an interior designer without any formal training. Here are some tips for getting started:
Learn on Your Own
While a design degree will provide structured education, there are many ways to gain knowledge as a self-starter. Purchase interior design books and magazines to learn about principles like space planning, color theory and lighting design. Watch video tutorials to get tips on rendering, drafting and visualization software that many designers use. Consider taking community college courses a la carte in topics like textiles, architectural history and business practices to build your base of knowledge. The Internet and libraries offer endless resources to learn for free.
Find a Mentor
Hands-on guidance from an experienced designer can be invaluable. Try to find someone in your area who is willing to let you job shadow them or assist on projects. Not only can you pick up technical skills, but you’ll gain exposure to the realities of running an interior design business. Check designer guilds and associations to network with those who may be open to mentoring. Reach out to an interior designer in Sanibel whose aesthetic you admire to inquire about mentorship opportunities.
Build a Portfolio
As an unproven designer, your portfolio is everything. Start collecting projects to showcase your skills. Offer to assist friends and family with design needs for free to build your body of work. Make sure to take lots of photos for your portfolio as you complete projects, no matter how small. Establish an online portfolio site or social media account to highlight your design perspective and abilities. A visually stunning portfolio is the best tool for attracting clients.
Look for entry level jobs or internships with interior design firms to gain practical work experience. You’ll have a foot in the door to make industry connections. Paid or unpaid, this real-world experience will give your resume credibility. Check job sites, but also don’t hesitate to approach firms directly about openings. Once you secure a position, be a sponge – ask questions, sit in on client meetings, learn the ropes of running projects. Leverage each role to build the hands-on experience that proves your capabilities.
Voluntary certifications are available that may enhance your resume as a self-taught designer. Organizations like the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) offer exams that can demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to the field. Earning credentials helps level the playing field when competing with degreed designers for jobs. Certifications also provide ongoing education requirements that will help you stay sharp. They signal to clients that you are serious and dedicated to interior design as a career.
With proper preparation and persistence, it’s completely possible to break into interior design without a formal degree. By actively educating yourself, seeking on-the-job experience and building a visually impressive portfolio, you can establish credibility and position yourself for success. Remain patient and open-minded to learn on the job, and your interior design career can flourish even without degree qualifications.