Interior designers specialize in arranging the interior spaces of buildings so that they are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Many work for design firms, while others do independent freelance work. Most interior designers have a bachelor's degree. As with most professions, interior designers straight out of college tend to make less than those with years of experience under their belt.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest-paid 25 percent of interior designers reported annual incomes of $34,910 or less in 2012. This represents the likely range of salaries for starting and part-time designers. In 2010, CNN Money listed interior design as a college degree that "doesn't pay," and revealed that interior designers reported a median starting pay of $34,400 a year. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville concurs. Representatives there advise potential majors that interior design graduates can expect a starting salary of between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.
Once interior designers get some experience under their belt, the potential earnings tend to increase substantially. As of 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that interior designers earned an average income of $52,970 per year. What's more, the highest-paid 25 percent made $66,330 or more per year, and the highest-paid 10 percent made $86,900 or more per year. According to industry website Coroflot.com, freelance interior designers make an average of $29 per hour.
Other factors besides experience can affect the expected salaries of interior designers. For example, some locations offer higher rates of pay than others. According to the BLS, Washington, D.C., offered the highest average pay for interior designers in 2012, at $66,830 a year. Designers working in the Northeast tended to report the highest average rates. The lowest-paying state, North Dakota, offered average pay of just $31,550 a year -- lower than the rates at which many designers start.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, interior designers are expected to experience positive job prospects between 2010 and 2020. While the economy is projected to produce new jobs at a rate of 14 percent, jobs for interior designers are expected to grow at a rate of 19 percent. Specialized design firms are expected to produce jobs for interior designers at an even greater rate -- 27 percent. Designers looking for work should have the best job opportunities in wealthy areas.
2016 Salary Information for Interior Designers
Interior designers earned a median annual salary of $49,810 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, interior designers earned a 25th percentile salary of $36,760, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $68,340, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 66,500 people were employed in the U.S. as interior designers.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Interior Designers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 Wages for Interior Designers
- Coroflot.com: Interior Designer salaries in United States
- University of Tennessee Knoxville: Interior Design Major Guide for 2011-2012
- CNN Money: College Degrees That Don't Pay -- Interior Design
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Interior Designers
- Career Trend: Interior Designers
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images