What is The Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Architect?

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Individuals who have an interest in creating an aesthetically pleasing home or business often wonder what the difference is between an interior designer and an architect. Both of these professionals use their knowledge and skill to design a residential or commercial building that meets the requirements of the client. The main difference between these two professionals is that interior designers work with the interior of the building while architects typically deal with the exterior design. Interior designers and architects are both in demand and both have the potential to earn excellent wages, but there are still differences between the two.

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What Interior Designers Do

Interior designers make the interior of a building pleasantly appealing, safe and functional. They generally get their jobs by advertising and bidding on projects. They use their knowledge of materials, lighting and color designs to put together a beautiful room. Once they’ve obtained a project, they meet with the clients to determine the client’s goals. They take into consideration how people will need to utilize space and how much space they’ll need.

Their initial plans, which include room sizes, partitions and electricity, are preliminary sketches. When they have all the specifications they need, they transfer the initial sketches into blueprints, which include the final measurements and design options. Interior designers must know current inspection regulations and building codes. They deal with all aspects of the interior design, including flooring, lighting, plumbing fixtures, wall finishes and furniture.

When they have the final look complete on paper, they present it to the client for approval. They also set a timeline of when the client can expect the project to be completed. Interior designers also coordinate with construction and building contractors to ensure their plans can be implemented into the finished project. Interior designers work inside residential homes and businesses.

What Architects Do

Unlike interior designers who work on the inside of a building, architects are the professionals who plan and design the outside of a building. They work with not just homes, but also office buildings, factories and various other structures. They typically obtain their jobs by advertising, marketing and providing clients with presentations of previous projects they’ve completed. Architects also meet with clients to determine what the client wants to be built and what type of requirements must be met.

They provide the clients with detailed specifications, an estimate of what the project will cost and what kind of timeline they can expect. Architects also oversee the professionals who make up the drawings and blueprints and show the blueprints to building contractors, which are the professionals who will be doing the actual building. Architects do their original sketches using hand-drawing skills but create their final designs and plans on computer-aided drafting and design software.

Architects visit the worksite to ensure that the work meets the client’s specifications and complies with the architectural designs. Architects do work on a variety of different projects, including indoor and outdoor projects. They may be hired to design a small room or an entire building complex. Depending on the project, architects may have to go over environmental concerns and building codes with the client.

The architect must prepare drawings of not just the outside of the building or room but also any structures that must be included in the inside, such as heating and ventilation systems, plumbing, air conditioning, communication systems and electrical systems. They may also be hired to design the landscaping. With all jobs, the architect must adhere to zoning laws, local and state building codes, fire regulations and any ordinances the city may impose.

Is Licensure or Certification Required?

Interior designers and architects are both required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. While interior designers may have a degree in any field, architects typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in architecture. However, for both of these careers, the educational requirements may not be as important as the licensure and/or certifications the individual must obtain.

Licensure for interior designers varies by state. Some states require interior designers to be licensed, while other states may allow both licensed and unlicensed to perform interior design work. Individuals in these states must be licensed if he or she wants to use the title “interior designer”.

Interior designers working in states that require licensure must pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification state-approved certification exam. To be eligible to take the exam, the individual must have a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of interior design work experience.

Architects are required to have an architecture degree from an accredited organization in about two-thirds of the states. The most common accrediting organization is the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Architectures in all the states are required to complete an internship that lasts at least three years. Most candidates choose an internship sponsored by the Architectural Experience Program. Architects are also required to be licensed in all the states, which can be accomplished by completing the internship and passing the Architect Registration Exam.

Earning Potential for Both

Interior designers and architects both have the potential to earn very good wages according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Interior designers nationwide earned an average annual wage of $59,120 as of May 2018, but wages ranged from $29,970 to $94,130. States where interior designers earned the highest wages are District of Columbia ($79,230), Rhode Island ($75,110), Alaska ($71,150), California ($68,440) and Arkansas ($66,840).

Architects nationwide earned an average annual wage of $60,719 according to a January 2020 report by PayScale.com. Wages ranged from $43,000 to $102,000. States where architects earned the highest wages are New York ($90,435), Massachusetts ($89,689), New Hampshire ($88,014), Maryland ($83,766) and Alaska ($82,638).

Working as interior designers and architects can very rewarding work, especially when the finished project is extremely different from the starting project. Despite the differences between an interior designer and an architect, the one thing they both have in common is that they can feel a real sense of pride and accomplishment to be able to design and put together a building or home from almost nothing.

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