Photo: Interior design team discusses design plans for a bathroom project
Updated December 2022
So, you’re thinking of becoming an interior designer and you’re wondering what it’s really like to work in this field.
The good news is you’re already asking the right questions. Getting a realistic idea of life at work is crucial when choosing a career path. And you need this information before you invest in training.
Let’s face it, no job is perfect. There are always ups and down, benefits and challenges. Interior design is no exception! Knowing what to expect (the good and the bad) will help you decide if interior design is your true calling—or if you’re better off pursuing something else.
So, let’s get down to it. These are the most common pros and cons of becoming an interior designer.
Take a look, consider your goals, and decide if this career is right for you.
Pro: You don’t need a university degree to become an interior designer
That's right. You do not need a university degree to become a successful interior designer. This is a major advantage for people looking to avoid huge student loan debt.
Interior design is one of those fields where proving your skills at work is more valuable than earning a fancy four-year degree.
Yes, you definitely need a strong foundation in interior design principles and software. But once you’ve learned those skills, you can hit the ground running as a junior designer. This is where you’ll learn the trade, get experience, hone your skills, and prove your talent.
If you’re successful, you can eventually move up into lead designer roles, where you’re meeting with clients and developing concepts on your own.
Con: This work has a technical and repetitive side
Think interior design is all about choosing paint colours, furniture, and accessories? Think again!
Yes, you’ll get to spend time on those decorative touches, but a lot of design work involves technical planning and time on the computer. You need to know the latest design software, how to measure spaces, do calculations, and produce technical drawings and presentations.
Designers are responsible for creating construction sets, 3D renderings, checking building codes, and other less glamorous tasks.
These are important interior design skills. But many newcomers don’t realize how technical (and sometimes repetitive) this work can be.
Pro: Interior Design offers many areas of specialization
Obsessed with kitchen design? Want to work on commercial spaces, like restaurants or boutiques? Dream of designing luxury hotels? Just want to focus on home interiors?
From homes to hotels to cruise ships—and everything in between—interior design offers many areas of specialization.
One of our recent graduates, Sergkei Theocharis, ended up getting hired by an international home furniture and décor company called Primo International.
He’s designing their showrooms, doing renderings for catalogues, and going on the road to stage Primo’s products at tradeshows. Sergkei says it’s a “dream job.”
“I design concepts for special projects and have gone twice to the US to help stage products at showrooms there. I'm also creating presentations and layouts of rooms for hotel developers who are interested in our products. Working as a designer for Primo, I have the freedom to experiment and create something really original.”
Con: Clients can be demanding and stressful
Interior design is not really about your design preferences. It’s about what your clients want, like, and can afford.
Interior designers have to work hard to communicate their ideas and manage clients’ expectations. You have to deal with tight budgets, last-minute decision changes, clients who don’t like your ideas, and projects that don’t go as planned.
Interior design can be stressful. It's really important to know this from the start. The rewards can be amazing, but the process is often quite challenging.
Pro: Interior design has a big impact on people’s lives
Interior designers work with important spaces. These are the spaces we live and work in. These are the spaces we shop, eat, and sleep in (think hotels, restaurants, and stores).
Interior design impacts how we use spaces and how we feel when we’re in those spaces. It’s important work that has a big impact on people’s lives.
Just imagine your client’s beaming smile when your design comes to life and completely transforms their world.
Con: The starting salary can be low
Like so many careers, interior designers have to pay their dues. There’s good money to be made in this field, but you’ll have to prove your skills first.
A typical starting salary for junior interior designers in Canada is between $31,000 and $39,000, according to data from the Government of Canada Job Bank and PayScale.
The median salary is $51,000 to $52,000, and the top earners can make up to $92,000.
So there's definitely room to grow, but most new graduates have to start at the bottom.
Note: Some companies offer bonuses, commissions, and other benefits on top of your salary.
Pro: You can start your own interior design business
Dream of starting your own interior design business? Many designers choose to become entrepreneurs and freelancers.
You can start small, picking up small contracts while you’re still working full-time at a design firm. When you’re ready, you can make the leap to full-time entrepreneur.
You’ll get to choose your own projects, set your own prices, and specialize in an area of design you really feel passionate about. The sky's the limit!
Con: Working overtime and odd hours
In this field, due dates get bumped up and the deadlines can be fierce. This is especially true when you’re juggling a few different design projects, which junior designers often do.
Can't find that sofa you need for a design? You’ll have to put in some overtime searching for it online.
A client changes her mind about a design last minute? You'll need to rework your plan, no matter how late it is.
The contractor says your design for the fireplace can’t be installed? You’ll need a plan B quickly, even if it means working through the weekend.
The bottom line is that interior designs rarely go as planned. And that means sometimes working overtime and odd hours to get projects done right.
Pro: You can earn an Interior Design diploma in just 18 months
Looking for a training program you can finish quickly? You're in luck. You can complete an interior design program in well under two years.
College diplomas skip over a lot of the design theory and philosophy taught in university interior design programs. Instead, you focus on learning design software, space planning, problem-solving, building codes, and other skills you’ll need to get hired.
The goal is to prepare you for junior interior designer positions. That way, you can get your foot in the door and keep learning on the job—which is what design is all about.
So, what’s the verdict? Do you think the pros outweigh the cons?
If you’re ready to move forward with your interior design career, the next step is talking with an admissions advisor. Make a list of interior design schools you like and speak with advisors at each school. This is the best way to compare programs, get your questions answered, and find the training that meets your needs.
Start by exploring the 18-month Interior Design diploma offered at Herzing College Montreal. Click below for a complete overview of the program and chat live with an advisor. We’re here to help!