Many people use the terms "interior designer" and "interior decorator" interchangeably, however there is a difference.
Anyone can wake up in the morning and call themselves an interior decorator, just as they could call themselves an artist.
In order to be an interior designer, as defined by most states, a person must have education, experience, and have passed a lengthy multi-day long examination. 
In practice, an interior designer is more of a mix between an interior decorator and an architect. 
Interior designers are knowledgeable about building codes, construction methods, space planning, color selections, remodeling, universal design, decorative finishes, problem solving, and much more. 
Interior designers might work in the residential or commercial aspect of interiors.
Interior decorators are more focused on the aesthetics of a room, such as paint colors, draperies, furniture selections, and accessories.
Interior decorators usually work only in the residential aspect of interiors.
Here is a list of steps to become an interior designer, however it might vary slightly depending on where you live.

Steps to Become an Interior Designerphoto by Fletcher Design Consultants
Look online for requirements to be an interior designer in your state.

Make sure you follow the steps per the state you will be practicing interior design since each state is slightly different .

Researching and understanding your state's requirements will help you determine if you are willing to commit to this career path. 

It would also be wise to speak with several professional interior designers near you to get an idea of their day to day activities as well as the pros and cons of being an interior designer.


Get educated at a CIDA, formerly FIDER, accredited school or university if required by your state.

There are many online options available, but make sure a degree from the school of your choice will qualify for your state.

Learn as much as you can in your free time about interior design from school, TV, magazines, internet sources, and anywhere else you can.


Get interior design experience working for a licensed interior designer.

Learn as much as you can about designing and about all the aspects of running a business. 

Depending on your state's requirements, you will probably be required to work 6 months to two years before you take your licensing exam.


Take the NCIDQ exam, a difficult 2 day long exam that is comparable to lawyers taking the bar exam.

The exam changes about every 5 years.

Join a study group and take practice tests because the exam is quite pricey to take.

Currently only 60%-70% of people pass the exam.


Once you pass the entire NCIDQ exam, you can register with your state to be an interior designer.

Once approved by the state, you can call yourself a licensed or registered interior designer.

You will probably be required to stamp drawings, pay dues, and do continuing education in order to keep your license active.

You can join professional organizations such as ASID or IIDA in order to advance your career.









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