California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Interior Designers in San Diego County

May also be called: Interior Design Consultants; Certified Kitchen Designers; Commercial Interior Designers; Interior Decorators; and Interior Design Coordinators

What Would I Do?

Interior Designers plan and design, or redesign, attractive and useful interiors for homes, hotels, ships, hospitals, office buildings, and other commercial structures. They can be classified by the following general categories:

  • Designers who own and operate design studios.
  • Designers who work as assistants or associates in design firms.
  • Designers employed by retail or office furnishings stores.
  • Designers employed by architectural firms.

  • Designers employed in the design departments of large firms and institutions.

Interior Designers usually work directly with clients and must consider their requirements, tastes, preferences, and budget. They must keep form, color, scale, and arrangement in balance and, at the same time, be concerned with utility, construction, economy, and client satisfaction. Designers should be familiar with the nature of woods, textiles, and decorating products, such as paint and wallpaper. They should be knowledgeable about the historical periods that have influenced the development of furniture style and room design.

Designers often work from blueprints, make detailed floor plans, and draw furniture to scale. They shop in wholesale markets to locate furnishings and accessories and, when necessary, design original pieces to be made to order. They often work closely with building and landscape architects in planning the interiors of new buildings or remodeling old ones. Presentations for client approval usually include a sketch or scaled floor plan showing furniture arrangements; color charts; and samples of upholstery, draperies, and wall coverings. The complete proposal includes a price estimate for the installation. After the proposal is accepted, Interior Designers assemble furnishings and act as agents for their clients by contracting and supervising the services of craft workers.

Some Interior Designers may specialize in color coordination, lighting, furniture, or fabric design. Others may teach at universities, art schools, or adult education facilities.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Estimate material requirements and costs, and present design to client for approval.Customer and Personal Service
Confer with client to determine factors affecting planning interior environments, such as budget, architectural preferences, and purpose and function.Active Listening
Advise client on interior design factors such as space planning, layout and utilization of furnishings or equipment, and color coordination.Oral Expression
Select or design, and purchase furnishings, art works, and accessories.Design
Formulate environmental plan to be practical, esthetic, and conducive to intended purposes, such as raising productivity or selling merchandise.Complex Problem Solving
Subcontract fabrication, installation, and arrangement of carpeting, fixtures, accessories, draperies, paint and wall coverings, art work, furniture, and related items.Management of Financial Resources
Render design ideas in form of paste-ups or drawings.Originality
Plan and design interior environments for boats, planes, buses, trains, and other enclosed spaces.Visualization
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

The work environment is usually quite pleasant; however, much time is spent away from the office, meeting with clients, contractors, or shopping. Interior Designers must drive in all types of weather and some work in buildings under construction. They often carry heavy, bulky sample books and sometimes need to climb ladders.

Designers have to manage stacks of paperwork, such as specifications, estimates, and purchase orders. They must be able to deal tactfully with clients. Work is often performed under the pressure of deadlines and budget limitations.

Currently, there is little or no union representing this occupation. Interior Designers are eligible for membership in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) or the Institute of Business Designers (IBD) if they meet membership requirements. These include professional training, experience, and passing of the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) examination.

Will This Job Fit Me?

This job would appeal to someone who is organized and pays attention to detail, has good interpersonal skills, and can think creatively. The job of Interior Designer will appeal to those who have an artistic nature. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs, and patterns. They often require self-expression and working without a clear set of rules.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Salaries vary widely by type of employer, amount of experience, and reputation of the individual. Those who work in retail stores usually earn a commission, which can be irregular. Designers who work in large specialized design and architectural firms earn higher and more stable salaries. Salaried Interior Designers usually earn higher and more stable incomes than self-employed or freelance Designers. However, incomes of self-employed and freelance Designers vary with their talent, business ability, reputation, and type of clientele.


The median wage in 2020 for Interior Designers in California is $64,913 annually, or $31.22 hourly. The median wage for Interior Designers in San Diego County is $68,662 annually, or $33.01 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$52,482$68,662$82,135
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefits vary for Interior Designers. Large firms generally provide paid holidays, vacation, sick leave, health insurance, and retirement plans. Self-employed Designers must provide their own benefits and retirment.

What is the Job Outlook?

Designers are in high demand in the health care industry because of an anticipated increase in facilities that will accommodate the aging population. Demand for Designers is also high in the hospitality industry – hotels, resorts, and restaurants – due to an expected increase in tourism.

Continuous use of design services in residences and commercial establishments has increased the demand for qualified Interior Designers. Many consider the employment of an Interior Designer a luxury expense, so job opportunities are more frequent in prosperous times. When the economy slows down, chances of employment decrease markedly.

In addition, numerous job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave this occupation each year. Opportunities should be best for applicants with extensive knowledge of the latest technology, such as home theaters, state-of-the-art conference facilities, security systems, ergonomics, and green design.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Interior Designers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Interior Designers are expected to increase by 5.4 percent, or 500 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

In San Diego County, the number of Interior Designers is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Interior Designers are expected to increase by 12.1 percent, or 110 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Interior Designers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Entry into the profession of interior design usually requires graduation from an accredited college, university, or professional school of interior design. The course of study should include principles of design, history, art, free hand and mechanical drawing, and basic architecture.

Upon graduation from a two- or three-year program, candidates receive a certificate or an associate’s degree in interior design. Graduates receiving a bachelor’s degree can apply to a formal design apprenticeship or training program from a design or architecture firm.

After completing an accredited program, it generally takes three to five years of practical experience to become fully qualified. Assignments in selling or shopping provide excellent on-the-job training. Part-time or summer employment in the furniture department of retail stores or large architectural firms provides good basic training for students and may lead to a permanent job.

Designers should have a valid California driver license and some employers require workers to have a car.

Early Career Planning

High school students should take English, mathematics, art, home economics, computer, and business courses. In addition, drawing and computer design courses are extremely helpful. Participation in other activities such as drama, service clubs, or sports can also teach team building, goal setting, and project management.

Continuing Education

Interior Designers must keep up with the latest trends in interior and architectural design; therefore, Designers should expect to continue their education on the job.

Work Study Programs

Training programs for Interior Design, Furnishings and Maintenance; Careers in Interior Design; Interior Decorating; and Environmental Interior Design & Architecture courses are available through Regional Occupational Programs. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.


Professional Interior Designers can become Certified Interior Designers after completing the necessary education, experience, and examination requirements as outlined by the California Council for Interior Design Certification. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Interior Designers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Specialized Design Services29.2%
Architectural and Engineering Services27.1%
Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods5.2%
Furniture Stores4.9%
Residential Building Construction2.5%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Most Interior Designers either own or work in interior decorating firms or work for large retail stores or architectural firms. In addition, Designers can locate jobs through other people in the industry, professional affiliations, or advertisements in trade journals. Newspaper classified ads also provide a helpful resource for local job openings.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Interior Designers.

  • Architects
  • Architectural Illustrators
  • Building Designers
  • Department Stores
  • Drafting Services
  • Furniture-Custom Designers & Makers
  • Home Design & Planning
  • Interior Decorators and Designers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Promotion for Interior Designers usually consists of higher salaries earned for assignments to more complex jobs with larger budgets. Very talented Interior Designers may advance to the head of a decorating or design department. They may become interior furnishing coordinators or be given other supervisory positions in department stores or larger decorating or design firms. Designers with additional experience and consulting expertise may go into business for themselves.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Interior Designers with links to more information.

Commercial and Industrial DesignersProfile
Costume AttendantsProfile
Landscape ArchitectsProfile
Set and Exhibit DesignersProfile
Tailors, Dressmakers, and Custom SewersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification27-1025
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Interior Designers27-1025.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)AES
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Interior Design 500408
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Interior Design and Merchandising130200