Interior designers are responsible for creating aesthetically pleasing rooms. Their responsibilities may also extend to making indoor spaces more environmentally friendly, making buildings accessible to people with disabilities, figuring out ideal lighting, and maximizing storage space. Because there are so many different areas of interior design, salaries can vary significantly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average interior design salary was $51,500 in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned $27,240, while the top 10% earned more than $93,000.
According to the BLS, the majority work in Specialized Design Services. This is a very broad category that includes graphic design, industrial design, fashion, and floral design services. This BLS category has the second highest median income at $60,250 with a total employment of 20,600. The Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services Industry employ 11,500 with a median salary of $63,820 (May 2017).
What better place to look at salary than USAJOBS.gov. The website lists all current federal jobs within various agencies and branches of the military. Many of these may surprise you where you can apply for work with an interior design degree and experience. Here are examples of job postings as of May 2018:
- Veterans Affairs in the Veterans Health Administration seeks interior designer. You serve as the Interior Designer/Project Manager in the Strategic, Capital Investment, Operational Planning, and Evaluation (SCOPE) Service Medical Center, Saginaw, Michigan. Pay Grade GS-11: $61,218 – $79,586.
- U.S. Agency for International Development receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. Designer prepares AUTOCAD space plans, designs feature drawings or sketches, changes drawings and designs specifications for proposed space which demonstrate state of the art solutions to space usage. Pay Grade GS-13. Salary: $96,970 – $126,062.
Specialized Design Firms
As noted above, according to the BLS, this is the largest employer with 20,600. Some of these are international firms, such as IA/Interior Architects. Founded in 1984, they are one of the first global architectural firms focused exclusively on interiors. As leaders in intelligent workplace design, IA helps clients in diverse markets worldwide articulate and align their business strategies and core values with the dynamic use of space.
The top three most successful—and some of the highest paying– interior design firms in the United States are Gensler, Jacobs, and HOK. Working for a large firm is a good way for interior designers to make more than the national average salary.
Gensler, for example, is a global architecture and design firm grounded in the belief that design strategy optimizes business performance and human potential. Their 5,000+ practitioners networked across 46 offices use global perspective and local presence to innovate. Individuals with exceptional design skills, a background in architecture or design, and a portfolio of innovative design concepts are eligible to apply.
HOK is another international corporation with 1,700 employees spread across 23 offices on three continents. They design everything from airports to skyscrapers to healthcare. HOK’s interior design teams study a client’s business drivers and culture and create space that helps them flourish. The firm posts career openings on their website. Their current (May 2018) career page has openings for Interior Designers. Requirements are:
- A Bachelor’s degree in architecture, interior design or foreign equivalent
- Prior experience in interiors projects
- Must be professional Interior Designer and have passed the NCIDQ exam or be a registered Architect with a current license
Unfortunately, these firms do not provide any salary data. Judging from the list of architectural award presents to these larger firms, the salary is probably commensurate with the stature of the corporation.
Self-employment can be difficult until you have acquired a steady list of clients. In order to succeed on your own or with a small business, you must start where the money is. Go where the money is…sage advice when it comes to interior design. The more affluent are more likely to hire an interior designer.
According to usawage.com, Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Missouri is the highest paying city for interior designers at $88,730. This area also has a respectable entry-level median income of $35,340. Fayetteville area is followed by Provo-Orem, Utah with an average annual salary of $80,900. The average annual salary for interior designers in Providence-Fall River-Warwick, Rhode Island ranks # 5. Their average annual salary for the 90th percentile (the top 10 percent of the highest paid) is $121,350. The median (50th percentile) annual salary is $72,360. The wage statistics of interior designers in Rhode Island is based on the national compensation survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017 and published in April 2018.
The same statistics’ source has Lowell, New Hampshire as having the highest entry-level salary at $54,000. The only other two cities that exceed $50k as an entry wage are Salinas and Santa Barbara, California. Travel cross-country to New York City/Long Island and you will find the highest number of interior designers with 4,720.
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