Do you have an eye for colour and space? Love a beautiful interior? Maybe Interior Design is a career pathway for you! We will discuss traditional and non-traditional paths to becoming an Interior Designer.

The world of interior design is vibrant and constantly evolving, offering a canvas for creativity and personal expression.

The traditional paths to become an interior designer may no longer hold as much sway as being an exceptionally creative visionary. With the potential of social media aspiring interior designers can make their way through non-traditional paths of formal and non-formal education.

In this article will explore both traditional and non-traditional paths to becoming a successful interior designer and help you decide which is for you!

1. Traditional Education Route

A. Degree Programs The conventional path to interior design typically involves obtaining a bachelor’s degree in interior design or a related field. Accredited programs, such as those recognized by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), offer comprehensive courses covering design principles, colour theory, and CAD software.

B. Developing a Broad Skill Set These programs also focus on developing artistic, technical, and interpersonal skills crucial for a successful career. Students learn about spatial planning, sustainable design, and building codes, equipping them with a well-rounded knowledge base.

C. Internships and Real-World Experience Most degree programs include internships, allowing students to gain hands-on experience. This practical exposure is invaluable, providing insights into the industry and professional networking opportunities.

B. Developing a Broad Skill Set

These programs also focus on developing artistic, technical, and interpersonal skills crucial for a successful career. Students learn about spatial planning, sustainable design, and building codes, equipping them with a well-rounded knowledge base.

C. Internships and Real-World Experience

Most degree programs include internships, allowing students to gain hands-on experience. This practical exposure is invaluable, providing insights into the industry and professional networking opportunities.

2. Non-Traditional Education Route

A. Self-Learning and Online Courses

For those without access to formal education, online learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera offer a gateway to the world of interior design. These platforms provide courses on essential topics, allowing learners to build foundational knowledge at their own pace.

B. Building a Portfolio through Personal Projects

Creating a portfolio through personal or freelance projects is crucial. Redesigning personal spaces, volunteering for community projects, or taking on small freelance assignments can showcase your skills and creativity.

C. Networking and Building Industry Connections

Attending design events, joining online forums, and seeking mentorship can open doors to valuable industry connections and practical advice.

3. Gaining Practical Experience

A. Internships and Entry-Level Positions (Traditional Route) Graduates from traditional programs often start with internships or entry-level positions at design firms. This real-world experience is crucial for understanding the industry’s nuances and building a professional network.

B. Freelancing and Volunteering (Non-Traditional Route) Non-traditional learners can gain experience by freelancing or volunteering. Platforms like Fiverr or Upwork offer opportunities to undertake real projects, while volunteering can help in building a portfolio and gaining credibility.

4. Certification and Licensure

A. Certification and Licencing

For both traditional and non-traditional learners, obtaining professional certification can be a significant milestone. Before you embark on your interior design journey check in with the local regulations regarding the specific type of work you are looking to do. You will also be wise to make investigations into insurance and insurance requirements before you undertake any paid work.

5. Continuous Learning and Professional Development

A. Workshops and Seminars

Engaging in continuous learning through workshops, seminars, and industry events is crucial to staying updated with current trends and technologies in interior design, regardless of the educational path chosen.

B. Joining Professional Associations Associations

Find out if your region has a professional association and join it! These associations offer resources, networking opportunities, and continuing education options, beneficial for designers from all educational backgrounds.

6. Building a Strong Online Presence

A. Social Media and Online Portfolios

An online portfolio is essential for showcasing your work. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and professional websites can help in attracting potential clients and employers. Develop your style and portfolio to reflect the type of designer you are – this way you will attract the clients that best fit you!

B. Blogging and Content Creation

Creating a blog or engaging in content creation can establish you as a knowledgeable individual in the field, attracting a following and potential business opportunities.

7. Entrepreneurship and Specialisation

A. Starting Your Own Business

Many interior designers, especially those from non-traditional backgrounds, eventually start their own business. This requires additional skills in business management, marketing, and client relations.

B. Finding Your Niche

Specializing in areas such as sustainable design, commercial interiors, or residential spaces can set you apart in the industry.


Whether through a traditional university program or a self-taught, experience-based journey, becoming an interior designer is an attainable dream. Both paths offer unique advantages and challenges, and the choice depends on personal circumstances, learning preferences, and career goals. The interior design world thrives on diversity, creativity, and continuous evolution, welcoming talents from various educational backgrounds. Whichever path you choose, dedication, passion, and a commitment to lifelong learning are key ingredients to a successful career in interior design.

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