Practice >> 4 - Work Settings & Earnings

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, interior designers of all types are nearly four times as likely to be self-employed, often as residential interior designers, as are other specialty professionals. Many work in small firms of one to five employees.

The most recent United States Census Bureau information available from 1997 calculates 9,612 interior design firms in the U.S. , with a total of 33,915 employees or about 3.5 employees per firm on average. A number of large interior design firms employ 50 or fewer interior designers. Some employ between 100 and 200, and a very few employ several hundred or more. In Canada , the average number of employees per firm would be the same – approximately 3.5. Large firms would employ between 30 – 50 employees.

Earnings for interior designers vary widely depending on the type of design they do, whether they are self-employed or salaried, years of experience, reputation, demand, regional differences and other factors. As in many other professions, entry-level salaries are low, and senior practitioners and firm principals or partners often earn several times that of junior staff.

Recent surveys indicate that, on average, beginning interior designers earn about $30,000 a year. Mid-level interior designers those with three or more years’ experience make slightly more, around $35,000 to $40,000 annually. Interior designers who also demonstrate good project and/or people management skills can command substantially higher salaries ($50,000 to $55,000) as managers. Principals or partners in well-to-do firms may receive $75,000 to $100,000 or more.

The demand for design services tends to track with the fortunes of the economy at large. In a strong economy, demand is high and design firms will find it difficult to attract and retain talented and experienced employees, especially at the junior level. In a downturn economy, the opposite will occur, with jobs harder to come by and interior designers tending to stay in a position rather than transferring to another firm.

The BLS projects that employment of interior designers of all types is likely to grow faster than the average for all other occupations through the year 2008. Nonetheless, competition for better-paying design jobs will be keen. Interior designers who are better educated and have strong business skills, as well as talent and perseverance, are likely to fare best.

For more detailed information about the design professions compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, click here to connect to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

1 - Program Components  |  2 -Sample Design Process | 3 - Interior Design Disciplines

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