Become an Interior Designer in Texas

An interior designer is responsible for creating an aesthetic design plan for interior spaces. Additionally, they must ensure the space meets building codes and is accessible to wheelchair users, the visually impaired etc. They also confirm the functionality and safety of the space and know how to communicate with other industry professionals such as building contractors and architects. Because an interior designer's job functions are so broad, it takes a certain amount of education and experience in order to become a professional. To be a designer in the state of Texas, you must have the registered interior designer designation.[1]


Earning a Degree

  1. Choose a college. Texas colleges that offer degrees in interior design include Texas Tech University, University of Texas, Texas State University, Art Institute of Dallas, and Baylor University, Waco. You can access a full list of currently accredited Texas universities at:
  2. Verify the university is properly accredited. Education requirements vary, based on when you received your education to become a designer. You can review these requirements through the TBAE website, or request accreditation information form universities during the application process. Your interior designer degree must come from an institution accredited by either the CIDA or the NAAB.[2]
  3. Obtain a degree. To become a registered interior designer, you can obtain a baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degree. If you already have a baccalaureate degree in another field, you can also complete an interior design associates degree or certification program. Review the educational requirements as put in place by the state of Texas here .
    • Associate degrees or certification programs in interior design offer the minimal number of credit hours necessary to understand the main concepts of interior design, and combined with the additional year of field experience, this is often a great option for those who are starting second careers or who would otherwise prefer to enter the workforce more quickly.
    • A baccalaureate degree in interior design will offer you the necessary course work and experience, and this is typically the only level education necessary to be a successful interior designer.[3]
    • A master’s degree in interior design gives you an advantage over other designers. If you’re in a competitive market, an MA or MS degree may be a good option.
    • A doctoral degree is typically only sought by those designers who wish to work for larger planning and environment departments, who would like to teach interior design, or who would like to take a leadership role within the field as political representatives or leaders in professional organizations.[4]

Gaining Experience

  1. Learn the state of Texas job experience requirements. In most cases, you meet the interior design experience requirement with six months working in the field or by serving a 2-year internship, following your baccalaureate degree from an accredited university. If you have a degree at any level from a non-accredited university or a degree in another field, you can still qualify to register for the exam by obtaining three years of experience. You’ll also need to spend a specific number of hours on various topics.[5]
    • You’ll need to complete 3,520 experience hours for your six month on-the-job requirements and 5,280 hours for the two year internship.
    • Your mentor should include programming, schematics, design development, contract documents, contract administration, and professional practice management hours throughout your work experience.
    • There are also a variety of optional experiences including professional memberships and activities, accounting, and marketing that you may study as part of your work experience. These can be added to your necessary on the job learning requirements, but should not be used as a substitute for time spent learning other requirements.[6]
  2. Prepare your resume. Include all relevant work and education experience. There are a number ways to make a great resume that will grab your future employer’s attention.
    • Include relevant information, but try to avoid having more than two pages of content.
    • List experience, education, awards and recognitions, volunteer experience, and other information in easily reviewed sections.
    • Provide a brief description of your job functions when listing work experience.
    • Cater your resume to the job you’re applying for. Go through and add in references about how your education and experience make you a good candidate for this particular job.
  3. Create a portfolio. This will show your potential internship supervisor or employer what you’ve learned. The portfolio will be reviewed as part of almost any interview, and many employers require the portfolio with the application and resume. Include projects you completed as part of your course work that received high marks from professors. Even if a project did not receive a high grade, if you feel it shows your skill as an artist and designer, include it in your portfolio.[7]
    • Decide whether you’re going to use a digital or print portfolio. If you do use a digital portfolio, bring your own computer or tablet to interviews. Don’t expect this to be provided.
    • If your professor suggested changes or improvements for any of your designs, complete those before adding it to your portfolio.
    • Try to tell a story with your portfolio. Don’t just put photos together. Include captions and take time to organize the projects in a meaningful way. For instance, you could walk through a home with complete designs for each room as if it’s a real estate tour.
    • Include designs, photos, sketches, and anything else you think may be important to tell your story.[8]
  4. Request references from your teachers and supervisors. Many students and employees wait until after they graduate or move to another job to request letters of reference from their supervisors. However, it’s a good practice to keep a number of letters on hand to include as part of applications to supplement your resume.
    • If you’ve particularly enjoyed a class, ask your professor, “Would you be willing to write me a good letter of recommendation to include in my professional portfolio?”
    • If you’re completing your experience component, ask your supervisors to complete a letter of reference for you.
  5. Enroll in an internship. Apply at the Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP) that is administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). These programs are open to all interior design students and can be very competitive, but internships from other organizations do not meet the experience requirements. You will also need to meet the designated number of hours in each subject area as outlined by NCIDQ and approved by the state of Texas.
    • Talk to your professors about local internships.
    • Talk to guidance counselors, and ask if there is a list of NCIDQ internships in the area.
    • Search online for NCIDQ approved internships.
  6. Apply to work for an interior design firm. You can also complete six months of on the job experience in lieu of a two-year internship. You’ll need to work with an interior designer who is registered in the state of Texas, and you still need to meet all seven educational requirements from the NCIDQ.
    • Look for design firms hiring entry-level positions.
    • Contact them, and ask if they would be willing to hire a recent graduate seeking to complete exam eligibility requirements.
    • Complete the application, and send your resume, portfolio, references, and any other application materials to the employer.
  7. Have your supervisor complete an Educator Work Experience Verification Form. In order to be approved by the NCIDQ and the state of Texas, your internship or work supervisor needs to meet experience requirements and complete this form. Any internship or job supervisor needs at least 3,750 hours of experience. It’s important to note that your supervisor's experience can include teaching design and working in the field, but at least 50% of their experience should be in the field.[9]

Registering by Examination

  1. Apply to take the qualification examination. There are two versions available. One is offered by the NCIDQ, and it is for those students who completed a two-year internship. If you opt to take the test with only 6 months of employment experience, you must register to take the exam through the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE) here
    • Double check that you have all necessary educational transcripts, work experience documents, and references in order before you begin the application process.
    • Applications to take the exam are valid for up to 3 years after you submit them.
    • To be considered for registration, you must successfully complete all sections of the test within 5 years.
  2. Pass the appropriate certification exam. Once you’ve applied and been approved to take the certification exam, you need to pass in order to become a registered interior designer. The test is comprised of three sections. The first two are multiple-choice questions that test your knowledge of design techniques as well as rules and regulations. The last section is a daylong practicum with a variety of unique exercises. You must receive a passing designation on all three sections to be registered in the state of Texas. If you pass your exam, you become a certified interior designer.
  3. Register with the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners. Once you have passed all parts of the test, the NIDQ will send your information on the TBAE, or in the case of those who take their exam with the TBAE, the registration process will occur immediately. The TBAE will review your education, work experience, and exam scores. If the board approves you, you’ll receive communication letting you know you’ve been accepted. At this point, you will pay a fee, and become a registered Texas interior designer.[10]

Registering by Reciprocity

  1. Provide a Certificate of Standing. You’ll need to substantiate the claim that you are qualified to practice as a registered interior designer. You must have passed an interior design examination that is either administered by or accredited with the NCDIQ. Your Certificate of Standing includes your education, examination, and licensing history, and it must be sent directly from the licensing board of the state in which you were previously registered. Request this information from the licensing board by phone, email, or direct mail as outlined by your state specifications.[11]
  2. Request transcripts. You must have official copies of all of your transcripts sent directly to the TBAE board. These can either be sent in via mail, or through secure electronic communication directly from your university.[12]
  3. Provide proof of legal status. You’ll need to send copies of your proof of legal status to the TBAE. These can be mailed, faxed, or emailed, and they can include passports, naturalization certificates, driver’s licenses, and social security cards. Make sure to review the official lists from the TBAE here
  4. Complete your criminal history check. A fingerprint based criminal history test is necessary for all new applicants. You’ll need to allow several weeks for your fingerprints to be processed. Out of state processing can take one or more months. Make sure you leave plenty of time. The TBAE cannot, under penalty of law, issue a license without this completed check.[13]
  5. Pay the application fee. Once you’ve gathered all of your materials, you’ll need to submit a registration application fee of $150 to the TBAE. Once you are approved, you’ll pay an additional $200 fee to be registered as a designer in the state of Texas.[14]

Related Articles