How to Become an Interior Designer in Virginia
It takes a talented individual to work as an interior designer. While having a creative eye is an important piece of the puzzle, interior designers must also have the technical know-how to improve the function, safety and aesthetics of a space. Due to their technical background, interior designers are often found working with architectural firms and building companies, as well as commercial and residential real estate companies.
Virginia is home to many employment opportunities in the industry, but before you can use the title “interior designer you will need to obtain your interior design licensure through the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) by taking the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination.
Requirements for Becoming an Interior Designer in Virginia
Becoming a nationally licensed or certified interior designer in Virginia requires a combination of formal education and work experience, with the minimum being an associate’s degree in the field along with four years of full-time work experience. Work experience must be completed under a licensed interior designer or architect, but the length of your required work experience can be decreased by a couple of years if you pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher. All of the above must be completed before you can sit for the NCIDQ examination.
Interior Design Schools in Virginia
The interior design industry continues to grow with a wide range of employment opportunities across the United States. Virginia is home to quite a few colleges and universities that offer either an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in the field, or higher.
- Marymount University, Arlington. Located in Arlington, Virginia, just outside the nation’s capital, Marymount University offers a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interior Design in addition to a Master’s Degree in Interior Design. Each degree program is designed to integrate aesthetic theory, architectural principles, human-behavior concepts and psychology, technology and business practices with sustainable design.
- Tidewater Community College, Norfolk. TCC is the only college in southern Virginia that offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Interior Design. After completing the degree program, students can choose to either work full-time under a licensed interior designer or transfer to a four-year college.
- Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. VCU offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Design. The curriculum focuses on the study of space, form, color and light in collaboration with the pragmatic investigation of building codes, materials, finishes, construction methods and business practices. While there is a heavy focus on design throughout the program, understanding the relationship between human behavior and the built environment is also important, as well as analytical and creative thinking
Certification for Interior Designers in Virginia
To become a nationally certified interior designer you will need to, at minimum, attain an associate’s degree in interior design plus four years of full-time work experience in the field under an interior designer or architect. There are several combinations of work and education that can be used to qualify to take the NCIDQ exam, 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 the following sections:
- The Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)
- The Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)
- The Practicum (PRAC) exam.
The registration fees for each of these are as follows: $295 for the IDFX exam, $350 for the IDPX exam and $455 for the PRAC exam. There is a penalty of $150 for each cancelled exam.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
As an interior designer in Virginia you can expect to earn an average of $25.29 per hour or approximately $52,610 per year, according to recent research completed by Sokanu and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Depending on where you decide to work in Virginia, you could earn anywhere from $12.41 per hour in an entry-level position, before attaining licensure, to $41.66 or more per hour with a license and additional experience. By 2026, the data indicate that this number will not change or drop, so the job market for interior designers in Virginia is expected to remain stable
Working as an Interior Designer in Virginia
Employment opportunities as an interior designer in Virginia are plentiful. You can find a large number of job openings in the cities of Arlington, near Washington, D.C., as well as Richmond, Norfolk, Fairfax, Reston and Falls Church, but there are plenty of prospects throughout the state.
Interior designers in Virginia can be found working as an adjunct professor at a local university, in high-end furniture stores such as Ethan Allen, with architectural firms or real estate agencies. Many interior designers also decide to build up their portfolios and branch out as freelancers due to the flexible nature of running your own business. No matter what you decide to specialize in, though, as long as you use your creativity and technical skills you will likely have an enjoyable career as an interior designer.