How to Become an Interior Designer in California
Interior designers work closely with architects, contractors, real estate companies, design firms and even electricians to enhance the function, safety and aesthetics of interior spaces. While creativity is a must, interior designers are required to have technical knowledge as well as a psychological understanding of people and their behavior in order to create functional spaces.
To work as an interior designer in California you will need to complete certain educational and work requirements to be eligible to sit for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination through the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ).
Requirements for Becoming an Interior Designer in California
While it is possible to work as an interior decorator without formal training, you cannot use the title “interior designer in California unless you are a registered with the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC).
In order to become a licensed interior designer in California, you will need to acquire a minimum of a two-year associate’s degree in interior design with at least 40 semester hours, plus four years of work experience in the field under a licensed interior designer or architect. The more education you have, the less time you will need to work in the field before qualifying to take the exam.
Interior Design Schools in California
Being such a large state with many vibrant and thriving cities, there are quite a few interior design schools in California to choose from. Those schools include:
- Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Academy of Art University offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Architecture and Design that can be completed online or on campus. This degree program applies a visually rich online classroom where students can present work with digital documentation. Upon completion of the program, students will qualify to take the NCIDQ exam and start their career as an interior designer.
- California State University, Long Beach. California State University Long Beach offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Design that has garnered an international reputation, enticing undergraduate students from around the globe. Supporting opportunities for employment in the professional practice of interior design, the school works hard to prepare students for the NCIDQ exam or to pursue a graduate degree.
- Sacramento State University, Sacramento. Sacramento State University offers a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interior Design with a concentration in Interior Architecture. The Interior Architecture focus provides students with the technical, creative and critical thinking skills needed to successfully enter the interior design profession. Courses include design history and theory, aesthetics, graphics, lighting, space preparation, computer-aided design, interior composition and more. The school also encourages internships that can begin during the course of study.
Certification for Interior Designers in California
While an associate’s degree in interior design as well as four years of full-time work experience is the minimum requirement to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification certification, there are many education and work combinations that can be used for qualification, including:
- An interior design bachelor’s degree from a CIDA-accredited program plus two years of full-time work experience (3,520 hours under a certified interior designer)
- An interior design bachelor’s degree that is not accredited plus two years of full-time work experience (3,520 hours under a certified interior designer)
- A bachelor’s degree (minimum) in any other major and no less than 60 semester hours of Interior design work and two years of full-time work experience
- An interior design associate degree (60 semester hours) and three years of full-time work experience (5,280 hours under a certified interior designer)
- An interior design associate degree (40 semester hours) plus four years of full-time work experience (7,040 hours under a certified interior designer)
- A Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Architecture degree with three years of full-time work experience (5,280 hours under a certified interior designer)
The NCIDQ exam is split into three sections, including the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX), the Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX) and the Practicum (PRAC) exam. The registration fees for each of these are as follows: $295 for the IDFX, $350 for the IDPX and $455 for the PRAC exam. There is a penalty of $150 for each cancelled exam.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The career outlook for interior designers in California is exceptional. In fact, California is the third highest paying state in the nation for this occupation. It is also the top state for employment in the field.
According the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 8,130 people working as interior designers in the state of California in 2017, with an average wage of $32.83 per hour or $68,290 annually. By 2026, the data indicate that this number will not change, so the job market for interior designers in California is expected to remain stable.
Working as an Interior Designer in California
If you are interested in working as an interior designer in California, you can count on a flexible career choice that will also provide you with financial security. There is an abundance of employment opportunities throughout the state, but a large portion of jobs can be found in the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Burbank, Hollywood and Long Beach.
Working as an interior designer in California could mean working with a kitchen and bath design company, a hospitality business, a contracting corporation or even with The Walt Disney Company as an interior architectural designer. Regardless of what you decide you’d like to specialize in, working as an interior designer in The Golden State will provide you with near limitless opportunities.