Do Interior Designers Really Need a Degree?

Many budding interior designers grapple with the dilemma of paying a small fortune for a design degree. But of course, there is the tempting idea of employing other affordable alternatives – like watching YouTube tutorials and building a portfolio from scratch. As an aspiring interior designer, you should be thinking beyond sustaining your dream. Dreams do not feed people and pay the bills – jobs do. There are good jobs in interior designing and they are available for the qualified.

So how do people who hire interior designers define “qualification”? Is a strong portfolio enough? Or is a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design a key factor to unlocking your future career?

Let us discuss your options:

How do you plan to begin your career?

Without a degree:

Starting your interior design career without guidance is like piloting a plane for the first time without training, auto-pilot, or GPS. To avoid an epic crash, you either need to have an extreme amount of genius, good luck, or both. Practicing the software skills you need may not be the largest challenge. But if you have plans to start freelancing on your own, you will lose out to students who took hands-on modules that taught them how to work with materials and industry machinery. This path is not recommended unless you have contacts in the industry and someone who is willing to teach you the ropes for free.

With a degree:

If you want some guidance from professionals by joining a big design agency, you will need the qualifications – Especially so when you want to work in competitive countries like Singapore. Having a degree also allows you to branch out into teaching the subject after you have gained at least five years of relevant working experience. Not to mention, graduating from a top design school looks good on your portfolio. It also boosts the confidence of your future clients whether you intend to join a design company or start your own freelancing services.

Do you have the skills and determination to make your own portfolio?

A design portfolio shows off your skills to potential employers. Whether you choose to go through a design course or learn on your own, most people will begin with close to zero knowledge or technique. To be a competent interior designer, you will need to master the following skills:

– 3D software like 3D Max Studio

– Various Adobe Creative Suite software like Photoshop and Illustrator. Web designing programs like Dream Weaver are helpful, but not necessary.

– Auto CAD for 2D and 3D works.

– Ability to work with traditional tools like pencils, rulers and other drawing instruments for concept sketches or detailed blueprints.

– Space planning, decorating, and finding potential beauty in a variety of places.

An ideal portfolio contains around 15-20 pieces that display the skills stated above.

It is possible to create an interior design portfolio without formal training. However, degree students have significantly higher likeliness of producing works of better quality because they have guidance of professional lecturers. Another plus of attending interior design classes at a good design school is that you simply learn much more. You will meet people who inspire or challenge you to do your best. And also, you will understand more about industry practices that are not available in textbooks. All your experiences in school will reflect in your portfolio. Going to school is one of the fastest ways to grow as a professional interior designer who is capable of handling multiple paid assignments.

How can you improve your career prospects in interior design?

If you already have a Diploma and relevant working experience, apply for a top-up degree to increase your chances of getting that raise you want. If you have just graduated from high school or want a career switch, look out for intensive courses so that you can gain both an Advanced Diploma and Degree in three years.

Looking for a fresh perspective? Consider searching for design schools abroad. Studying overseas looks good on your résumé because it shows your ability to live away from your comfort zone. It also increases your chances of success if you study in the country you want to work in.

In a nutshell, going to school gives you skills to make a great portfolio that can give you entry to a company that values design ability. A degree comes in useful when you want to avoid your job application being binned by HR personnel of large interior design agencies. Art directors normally screen through works only after a candidate has been shortlisted by their company’s HR department.