How to Become an Interior Designer in Maryland
An interior designer is a creative professional who designs personal and business spaces for their clients. It’s not uncommon for interior designers to be hired by furniture stores or interior design firms; however, many designers work independently as freelancers. Interior designers might be hired to design the interior of homes that are being renovated, new homes that will be built by a contracting companies or office spaces.
While some states do not have specific requirements for working as an interior designer, formal education will boost your skills, help you nail your dream job and boost your design portfolio.
Requirements for Becoming an Interior Designer in Maryland
Education and licensing requirements for interior designers vary by state. There are currently 29 states that require interior designers to be licensed, and Maryland is one of them. That said, both licensed and unlicensed interior designers can practice in the state, but only those who hold an actual license can call themselves an “interior designer in Maryland. To become a licensed interior designer in the state you will need to meet specific education and work experience requirements in order to sit for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam through the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ).
Interior designers will need to complete either a bachelor’s or associate’s degree program of no less than 60 semester or 90 quarter credits of interior design coursework that culminates in a certificate, degree or diploma to qualify to take the exam. In addition to obtaining your degree or diploma, you will need to complete a minimum of 3,520 hours of work experience. If, however, you decide to go after an associate’s degree rather than a bachelor’s degree, you will need to attain at least 5,280 hours of qualified interior design experience before becoming eligible to sit for the NCIDQ exam. Work experience can be accomplished throughout your educational program, and oftentimes student interior designers can find work at furniture stores or retail stores as a “stager or designer-in-training.
Interior Design Schools in Maryland
There are quite a few schools in Maryland that offer an interior design program, but with today’s boost in technology and virtual learning there are online options as well.
- The Art Institutes. The Art Institutes are located in various cities across the United States, but the school also offers many degree programs in their online division, including a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design. Students will have the ability to work at their own pace while learning the tools necessary to become an exceptional interior designer, including commercial design, office design, building and safety codes, Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD), interior architectural systems and more. This program can be completed in less than four years or longer depending on your pace and schedule.
- Montgomery College. Offered at numerous locations in Maryland including Germantown, Rockville, Silver Spring and Gaithersburg, Montgomery College is readily accessible for students throughout the state. The Interior Design Pre-Professional, Arts and Sciences Associate’s Degree is a transfer program that offers beginning college-level courses for students who are interested in eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree. This program can be completed in four semesters with a total of 60 credit hours.
- Community College of Baltimore County. Offering an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Interior Design, CCBC’s degree program will prepare students to apply their training and study of design fundamentals and concepts to positions in real estate as well as commercial specialties. Upon completion of this program students can seek entry-level employment to obtain the necessary work hours as an interior designer or transfer their credits to a university and continue their schooling.
Certification and Registration for Interior Designers in Maryland
Regulated by the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ), the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification exam requires that interior designers complete any of the following education and work combinations to qualify to sit for the exam:
- 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’s degree (60 semester hours) and three years of full-time work experience (5,280 hours under a certified interior designer)
- An interior design associate’s 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:
- The Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)
- The Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)
- The Practicum (PRAC) exam.
Once you’re eligible to sit for the exam you will activate a timeframe in which you will need to register for and take the above three sections. You will have 10 exam windows to take the three sections, starting with the first exam window after you register. The registration fees are $295 for the IDFX exam, $350 for the IDPX exam and $455 for the PRAC exam. If you decide you need to cancel any or all of these exams you will be required to pay a $150 cancellation fee. In addition to the above fees, there is also an annual renewal fee of $75.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The career outlook for interior designers in Maryland is quite good. In fact, since a large portion of the state is also the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C., the job opportunities in Maryland are plentiful.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 1,440 people employed as interior designers in Maryland in 2017, with an average hourly wage of $31.70 or $65,940 per year. Interior designers working closer to Washington D.C. can expect to earn considerably more, as the average wage around the District of Columbia was $40.78 per hour or $84,810 per year in 2017. By 2026, the data indicate that this number will not change and that the job market for interior designers in Maryland will remain stable.
Working as an Interior Designer in Maryland
Interior designers can be found working in the design department of furniture stores, for real estate companies, architectural firms or corporate design departments, but it is also quite common for interior designers in Maryland to work individually as a freelancer. You can expect the job opportunities in Maryland to be plentiful, especially in the Baltimore metropolitan area and District of Columbia metropolitan area. The cities of Baltimore, Laurel, Towson, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Bethesda, Columbia and Rockville employ the most interior designers, but there are numerous job opportunities throughout the state.
If you consider yourself to be creative and have always loved designing spaces, it might be just the time for you to become an interior designer in Maryland. While it might take some schooling, in just four to five years you could be certified and working at your dream job as an interior designer.