How to Become an Interior Designer in Washington, D.C.

If you want to become an interior designer in Washington, D.C., you will have many opportunities within the nation’s capital in addition to surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia that are thriving with interior design employment prospects.

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Interior designers are creative professionals, but they also have a technical background that makes it possible for them to work with architects and contractors as well as kitchen and bath design companies. In addition to the technical knowledge, interior designers must have a deep psychological understanding of people and their behavior in order to create functional and eye-catching spaces that inspire, even in a business setting. Regardless of what the space might be for, interior designers create a plan or blueprint of a room, home or office with purpose.

Requirements for Becoming an Interior Designer in Washington, D.C.

To work as an interior designer in the District of Columbia and use the title you will need to obtain a license. To become a licensed interior designer by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) through the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ), you will need to satisfy certain education and work requirements. To sit for the licensure exam, you will need to acquire a minimum of a two-year associate’s degree in interior design along with four years of work experience under a licensed interior designer or architect. If you attain your bachelor’s degree in interior design, your work experience requirements will be reduced. The more education you have, the less time you will need to work before taking the exam.

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Interior Design Schools in Washington D.C.

The Art Institute of Washington in Arlington, VA, recently closed, but there is one college in the District of Columbia that offers an interior design program that will satisfy NCIDQ and CIDQ requirements. There are also online options for those who want more flexibility as well as a couple of programs located in Maryland, not too far from the capital.

  • Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Architecture, this program will give students opportunities to push the limits of design as they intellectualize three-dimensional spaces. This program is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) within Washington, D.C. Seventy-three percent of graduates were employed in design-related industries within six months, and 18 percent were accepted and enrolled in graduate programs within six months after graduation.
  • Academy of Art University, Online. The Academy of Art University offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Architecture and Design that can be completed online. This degree program utilizes 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.
  • Penn Foster College. Penn Foster College offers an online Associate of Science Degree in Interior Design that can be completed in two years or at your own pace. Costing only $79 per credit, Penn Foster offers a flexible and a very affordable interior design degree. Students will study topics such as residential and commercial design, color and its implications for designers, drawing techniques, CAD for interior spaces and more. Upon completion, students will have 45 credits toward meeting the educational requirements for the NCIDQ examination.

Certification for Interior Designers in Washington D.C.

An associate’s degree in interior design plus four years of full-time work experience is the minimum requirement to take the NCIDQ. If time permits, it is possible for you to intern while in college, reducing your post-graduation work experience requirements

The education and work combinations to qualify include:

  • 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 main sections:

  • The Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)
  • The Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)
  • The Practicum (PRAC) exam.

Once you’re eligible to take the exam, you will activate a timeframe in which you will need to register for and take the three sections mentioned above. The registration fees are $295 for the IDFX exam, $350 for the IDPX exam and $455 for the PRAC exam.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

The career outlook for interior designers in the District of Columbia is excellent. In fact, the nation’s capital offers the highest concentration of jobs within the field. It is also the top-paying state for licensed interior designers in the United States

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 670 people working as interior designers in Washington, D.C. in 2017, with an average wage of $40.78 per hour or $84,820 per year. By 2026, the data indicate that this number will not change and that the job market for interior designers in the District of Columbia will remain stable.

Working as an Interior Designer in Washington, D.C.

Working as an interior designer in the District of Columbia will provide you with a flexible career as well as financial security. Interior designers in Washington, D.C. can be found working as office interior designers, in commercial and residential real estate, with local design firms, architects and more. Some interior designers can be found working as adjunct interior designers at local universities or as project managers with contracting or real estate firms. After building a diverse portfolio, it is also common for interior designers to branch out and build freelance businesses

Washington, D.C. is home to a wide variety of interior design jobs, but there are also a large number just outside the capital in Arlington, Virginia. If you are a creative person who has always enjoyed designing your living spaces, signing up for an interior design program in Washington, D.C. or online is a great idea

Search Certified Residential Interior Designer Programs

Get information on Certified Residential Interior Designer programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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