How do I start my interior design career?

Are you thinking about a career in Interior Design? Iris Dunbar, Director of The Interior Design School, answers some common questions about how to get into interior design. You might also be interested in reading – Thinking about becoming an interior designer?

 How is interior design currently perceived as a career choice?

Forty years ago there weren’t many of us and we were fighting against the image of being amateurs and the clichéd perception that interior design is cushion plumping and choosing colours. Now we are a huge, diverse and respected profession of original thinkers and design experts working on a par with architecture. In the UK we now also have the British Institute of Interior Design as our professional standard bearer to promote and support the professional status of interior design. Being such a large profession means there are lots of opportunities to specialise and do what we each excel at.


What learning and skills will I need to be an interior designer?

You will need to develop an understanding of architecture and construction, be able to communicate well verbally with clients and contractors, be able to communicate visually (ie through drawings) your ideas and designs, have an eye for detail yet at the same time not lose sight of the big picture, and be able to balance creative design work with project management and administration. Having said this, we always work as part of a team, and as such, we don’t need to be excellent at all aspects of interior design – there are others who can contribute to create fantastic interiors – recognise your strengths, become a specialist and work with other people who will make the perfect design team. And never underestimate the transferable business skills that you may have from a previous career.


Will I need to have a degree in interior design?

Traditionally a degree was the main route into design, or no training at all to be a decorator with a good ‘eye’. I would strongly suggest that a school leaver takes a degree – to have the time to experiment and grow. However, a degree is not a prerequisite to practice as an interior designer in the UK and if you want to change career and already have life skills and a degree and/or a business or professional background in a different career you should investigate a one-year fast track intensive course (such as our full-time Professional Diploma course).


What can I expect as a first job upon graduating?

Ideally working within an established interior design company or interior design department within a firm of architects is the best way to consolidate what you learn at college. You will see projects through from start to finish, and put into practice the skills learnt from studying. Often this will be as a paid intern for a few months, which may well turn into a full-time job with career progression prospects to senior designer/director. Have a look at the profiles of some of our alumni – Nicola Osborn, Design Director at MoreySmith and Elizabeth Valkovics, Head of Interiors at Edge Design in Dubai.  Alternatively, having a couple of years of experience might be enough for you to feel confident to start your own design business and work with your own (usually residential) clients such as Lucy Clark, founder of Studio Clark.

Nicola Osborn

Lucy Clark

Elizabeth Valkovics







What advice would you give someone thinking about a career in interior design?

Training is essential. It’s not just learning the creative skills, it’s understanding the legal, contractual and professional aspects of interior design. This applies for the simplest residential project to the largest workplace project. You might want to dip your toe in the water and take a part-time course as an introduction, then move to a full-time course. Often we find that students come to us wanting to do residential design, but after they work on some commercial projects their horizons shift dramatically and they want to work on large commercial projects when they graduate. So don’t make the assumption at the start that you just want to design houses – you never know!  Another big consideration is how much time you are able to devote to training – consider family and ‘life’ commitments – you might find that a part-time course would suit you better.


So before you commit to a route, read the inspirational journeys of some of our alumni, investigate and research courses that will suit your circumstances, and check that the teaching team are still connected to the real design world and not purely academics.


If you’re thinking about a career in interior design, or want to learn skills to help you design your own home, we are more than happy to discuss any of these questions with you – just give us a call +44 (0)207 372 2811 or email us


Our next inspiration day is 3rd November 2018 and there are still places available on our full-time diploma and evening classes starting in September.


“I have assessed several student projects and I am always very impressed at the amount of knowledge that the students have amassed in a short space of time. They are always a very focused group”
Alistar Barr