The Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator - QC Design School

Do you have a natural eye for design? If something about a room’s decor doesn’t seem quite right, do your spidey senses start to tingle? Do you secretly daydream about having your own show on HGTV?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it might be time for you to consider switching career paths! Some people are born to be designers, and it sounds like you’re one of them. Now the real question is: what is your niche? Should you be an interior decorator, or an interior designer?

Although they may sound like the same job, they’re actually very different. In order to determine which profession is right for you, it’s important that you know exactly what to expect from each role. So, grab a pen and paper, and put your feet up…

It’s time for a crash course!

The Role of an Interior Designer

At its core, interior design is about understanding people’s behavior in order to create functional spaces within a living space. Common responsibilities of an interior designer include:

  • Meeting with clients
  • Determine the scope of each client’s project
  • Drawing up airtight design contracts for your services
  • Understanding fire and building codes, and ensuring that they are met
  • Familiarizing yourself with the living space, furniture, etc.
  • Developing design plans and illustrations
  • Determine what is needed for the space to be functional, and creating timelines around this
  • Collaborating with and working alongside architects, contractors, etc.

Through their architectural training – and their intimate knowledge of floorplans, aesthetics, and space planning – an interior designer is often a part of the team responsible for actually building or remodeling the home itself.

Most interior designers have decorating experience, too. Once the actual construction of the space is completed, it’s not uncommon for an interior designer to assist with furnishing and decorating it as well. That being said, shaping the aesthetic components of a living space is NOT the primary focus of an interior designer.

Interior Designer Schooling Requirements

Unlike with interior decorating, you’ll need to have strict, specific educational qualifications in order to truly call yourself an interior designer. To be able to legally work with this designation, you’ll need to be formally trained at an accredited design institution. Interior design programs typically range anywhere from 2 to 4 years in length.

Some places may also require you to pass a formal exam in order to become a registered interior designer. After graduating, it’s standard practice for new interior designers to then apprentice with seasoned industry professionals for a period of time before branching out and starting your own business.

Interior Designer Salary

Of course, there are many factors that can affect an interior designer’s salary. Case and point, as we’re currently in the midst of a pandemic, salary figures may not be the same as they were before the pandemic.

It depends on the location, the demand, your qualifications, your service rates, and your experience. Another consideration is whether you get employed by an existing design company, or start your own business.

That being said, we can help provide a bit of an estimate, in order to give you a general idea. As of the end of this past July, the average salary of interior designers in the United States is said to be just under $47,000 USD per year. However, it can range anywhere from $37,000 to approximately $51,500 USD.

Of course, the more jobs you get under your belt, and the better your industry reputation gets, the better your interior designer salary will be. As a reference, in the States, those with 1-2 years of experience average over $50,000 USD per year. Those with 10+ years of experience make well over $80,000 USD annually!

The Role of an Interior Decorator

The aesthetics of a living space may not be the primary focus of an interior designer, but it certainly is for the interior decorator. This career path is the perfect option for those whose passions involve color selection, accessories, and furniture placement.

While an interior designer may have their hand in the construction of the space itself, your job as an interior decorator will be to make that space visually appealing and livable!

Common responsibilities of an interior decorator include:

  • Meeting with clients
  • Determining the scope of each client’s project
  • Developing a design plan. This plan will typically include floorplans, color palettes/selections, furniture placement, decor, etc.
  • Drawing up airtight design contracts for your services
  • Helping the client to determine their budget
  • Relying on your resources, training, and craftiness to stretch that budget for maximum results
  • Collaborating with and working alongside contractors and other industry experts
  • Shopping for furniture, accessories and decor, window treatments, and (if applicable) paints and wallpapers
  • Putting together a timeline for each project
  • Ensuring the timelines are adhered to, to the best of your ability

Note: It’s important to point out that while an interior designer can decorate, an interior decorator cannot design. If you wish to add interior design services to your interior decorating business, you will need to obtain the proper training and certifications required to legally do so.

Interior Decorator Schooling Requirements

Since interior decorators don’t deal with renovations or structural planning, formal training isn’t technically required for this particular field of design. That being said, it would be a huge mistake to assume that you shouldn’t get a proper education, all the same!

After all, if you haven’t been formally trained, how can you possibly know what you’re doing?

Having professionally-recognized training under your belt will increase your chances of booking clients for your independent business, being hired by a design company, and standing out from the competition overall!

To set yourself up for the best chances of success, it’s strongly advised that you obtain an interior decorating certification. Many reputable design schools will offer courses that focus specifically on interior decorating, and thus, will be perfect for you.

Often, these courses are much shorter than an interior design program. For instance, QC Design School’s leading online Interior Decorating Course provides you with a full 2 years to complete your program. But since it’s self-paced, you can graduate much, much sooner.

For instance, if you were to devote a mere 1-2 hours per week to your studies, you could graduate from your course and earn your professional certification in as little as 3-6 months!

Interior Decorator Salary

Just as we mentioned above, it’s important to keep in mind the additional factors that can affect salary, such as:

  • Experience
  • Your service rates
  • Location
  • Demand
  • Economical factors (i.e. COVID-19, etc.)

That being said, the stats are still incredibly motivating! In the United States alone, the average interior decorator salary is $42,272 USD per year (as of August 3rd, 2020). Those with ample experience in the industry can see annual figures anywhere from $60,500 to $100,000+ USD!

It all depends on you, your patience, and the amount of time and hard work you’re willing to put into your career!

Want to earn a DOUBLE design certification and get a FREE Virtual Design Business Kit? Learn more about this exclusive, limited-time offer here!

Leave a Reply