Starting Salary for Interior Designer: What Can You Earn?

Brandi Glass
October 6, 20225 min read
Interior designer looking at camera

Interior design is a rewarding career in the creative industry. Your work days will be varied and challenging, and you’ll constantly learn new skills. Plus, interior designers are typically well compensated with plenty of room for professional growth.

Several factors can affect your starting salary, however. Before you send out your resume and portfolio, make sure you know what you’re worth.

What is the Starting Salary for an Interior Designer?

Online job board Indeed collects user-reported data on salaries in the US. Over 4,500 interior designers have reported their annual earnings, allowing Indeed to calculate typical salaries based on experience level. According to Indeed, interior designers with less than a year’s experience have an average starting salary of $45,866.

Similarly, Payscale calculates that entry-level interior designers typically earn $42,922 a year, while Salary.com’s data gives a median annual starting salary of $48,636.

So, what is the typical starting salary for an interior designer in the US? With less than a year’s experience, you can expect to earn between $43,000 and $48,500 a year.

What Factors Affect the Starting Salary for an Interior Designer?

To ensure you’re receiving offers on the higher end of interior design pay scales, make sure you understand the factors that affect salary offers. This will help you emphasize your strengths and better position yourself when negotiating rates.

These are some of the biggest factors affecting interior design salaries:

Certifications and Education Level

According to an International Interior Design Association (IIDA) report, having one or more credentials boosted the average interior designer’s salary by 25%.

In addition to interior design degrees, you can also consider studying certifications from respected industry organizations. More niche qualifications can also demonstrate your suitability for a role, so don’t hesitate to sign up for a course on specific software or design techniques.

Location

Where you choose to work can drastically affect the types of clients you attract and the rates you can charge. The IIDA’s report found that the highest annual salaries were in northeastern and western states, with the lowest ones in the midwest.

But before relocating to New York City, remember that the cost of living in places like Wisconsin and Iowa is also significantly lower. Plus, even interior designers can do more of their job remotely in the post-pandemic world of work. You could find that you’re still able to attract clients and employers in more profitable locations as long as you’re willing to fly in and view the site when required.

Portfolio

You might not yet have a lot of experience to draw on, but that only makes your portfolio more important. Even if it’s just made up of hypothetical designs or internships, these can demonstrate your style and skills.

Take the time to carefully curate your portfolio. When applying for a specific role, ask yourself if your portfolio pieces demonstrate that you have the required skills for it. If not, consider creating a new design specifically for this job application.

An outside perspective can be invaluable. Ask mentors and other interior designers for their feedback on your portfolio. They might tell you that it’s a “good” portfolio or that they like certain pieces of work. However, for more useful information, try asking them to describe what kind of interior designer you seem to be from the portfolio.

Does this description match who you are? And does it demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the roles you want? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” rethink your portfolio.

Resume

A well-written resume will help you make the most of your limited experience by highlighting your certifications and skill sets. It will make a strong first impression on recruiters or potential clients, and support you in your negotiations for a higher starting salary.

When writing your resume, keep it concise: it’s better to have a short resume than pad it out with unimpressive details. You will likely benefit from a hybrid resume structure. Remember to also customize it for the role in question.

Willingness to Negotiate

Although negotiating can be intimidating, it can lead to a significantly better salary. You are also likely to be successful: no matter what rate they initially offer, recruiters typically budget for a higher one. Even when recruiting for entry-level positions, over half of employers are willing to offer a higher starting salary.

Plus, asking for a higher starting salary can lead to exponential wage increases later on in your career. Most employers will offer pay rises as a percentage of your existing salary, meaning achieving even a small increase can prove extremely profitable.

Negotiating a Higher Interior Designer Starting Salary: Tips & Tricks

Let’s say you’ve already put our advice into practice. You’ve fine-tuned your portfolio and highlighted your credentials on your resume. Now, you’re prepared to negotiate a higher starting salary. For a greater chance of success, make sure to follow these tips:

Pick Your Moment

You don’t want to negotiate your salary too early, before you’ve had a chance to impress the interviewers or learn about what the role involves. Neither do you want to ask too late, when the recruiter thinks you’re already a confirmed new hire. Typically, salary negotiations happen when an offer is made.

Do Your Research

Knowing the average starting salary for interior designers in your location and with your credentials will help you negotiate a reasonable salary. You’ll not only know what’s an appropriate salary range, but you’ll be able to explain why in negotiations. Speaking of which…

Prepare Your Case

It’s not enough to just ask for a higher starting salary. You also have to justify it in a professional manner. Try creating a few draft salary requests and practice making them. You can use our templates for negotiating a higher starting salary.

A Stellar Resume to Support Your Starting Salary Negotiations

Spending time polishing your resume and portfolio can pay off. When negotiating your starting salary, employers and clients are likely to return to these documents to help them evaluate your worth to the company.

Your resume needs to emphasize your skill sets and experience to support your request for a higher starting salary. However, don’t make the mistake of including every skill and accomplishment you’ve ever achieved. Make sure to customize your resume for the role in question, highlighting the most relevant parts of your background.

Writing your resume doesn’t have to be complicated. Here at Rocket Resume, we’ve got a wide range of professional interior designer resume templates (and several for freelance interior designers, too!) that you can use as a guide. Plus, our resume builder will help you structure your resume and select recruit-approved phrasing based on your experience level and qualifications.

It only takes 10 minutes to craft a customized resume, so build your resume now.