A degree in interior design gives you a wide array of creative and technical skills and as such prepares designers to cope with a broad scope of projects, these can range from structural alterations to existing buildings, to the choice of soft furnishings, fixtures and fittings working to a client’s remit. Opportunities exist throughout the UK with the main employers being design consultancies and architectural practices. Designers need to be mobile as although they are usually based in studios there can be a lot of time spent on location as well.
After building a reputation, many interior designers choose to become self-employed or work freelance.
Where do I start?
Within the interior design sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Interior and spatial designer
- Exhibition designer
- Production designer Theatre/TV/Film
- Visual merchandiser
Jobs where your degree may be useful include:
- Architectural technologist
- Furniture designer
- Graphic designer
- Product designer
- Textile designer
Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don't restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here.
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date with developments in this sector (Interior designers are expected to keep track of new trends and products) and be aware of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may assist you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- British Institute of Interior Design – The professional organisation for interior designers in the UK. They have a monthly newsletter with news and events and also advertise job vacancies.
- ScreenSkills – Is the industry body which supports skills and training for people and businesses working in the creative industries.
- Discover Creative Careers – An online service to provide the tools, knowledge and networks to support every individual and business to get in, and get on, in the creative industries and cultural sector.
- Creative Boom – An online magazine and network community that aims to celebrate, inspire and support the creative industries throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
- Design Council – Industry insights and news.
- Design Week – Up to the minute design news, views and inspiration. Also has a directory of design consultancies and lists opportunities and job vacancies.
- Interior Design – Coverage of ground-breaking projects, innovative new products, real-time design industry news, and exclusive in-depth research.
Competition for jobs in this sector is fierce and work experience could be the deciding factor to securing a graduate job. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferable skills, which will help you demonstrate to employers your motivation and commitment to this area of work and show that you can use your skills and knowledge in a professional environment.
However finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CV’s every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations; it is worth contacting companies that you would eventually like to work for. Include in your list as possible contacts, interior design and architectural firms, design consultancies, construction companies, visual merchandising departments and theatres to ask whether you could undertake a placement with them. See our ‘Speculative Applications Guide’ for tips on how to write a good speculative letter.
Consider taking part in live briefs, entering competitions and taking advantage of exhibitions, as all are a great way of building your skills and making contacts. There are likely to be opportunities to do this through your time at university, so find out what is available. Use your current part-time job productively, if you are working as a shop assistant take time to forge links with the visual merchandising team in your branch, it might lead to some creative work experience.
It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience. Careers and Employability offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides opportunities.
Tips to build experience
- Explore the various areas within the interior design sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in relevant University or external groups. This is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within the interior design sector, and some thought as to what you would like to specialise in can make your job search easier. A designer’s work can be varied and you may find yourself working for a consultancy that provides services to a range of external clients. With many jobs going unadvertised making speculative applications may prove to be invaluable.
Employers who recruit in these areas
- Architectural firms and construction companies
- Interior design companies
- Exhibition centres and events management companies
- Consultancies offering a wide portfolio of design services
- Theatre, TV or film companies
Useful websites to start your job search
- DesignJobsBoard – Jobs board aims to reach designers in the UK looking to work in creative design studios
- Design Week – Searchable jobs database catering for the entire design industry. Use filters to find current vacancies in interior design.
- bd4jobs.com – Building design's recruitment and job website; use filters to browse for interior design vacancies.
- Glassdoor – Website holds a growing database of company reviews along with a searchable jobs board. Use filters to find interior design jobs in specific locations.
- Jobs board – Here you will be able to find graduate jobs across different sectors and locations.
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with sector news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
- Keep your on line job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within interior design check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted and where you can keep in touch with their current activities.
Useful Twitter feeds
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
If you need more information why not check out some of the resources below to help you to research a sector in more depth.
After building a reputation, many interior designers choose to become self-employed or work freelance. Finding work as a freelance interior designer may not be as difficult as you think, you could start with friends and family, who in turn tell their friends and family, this is a great way to start publicising your work. You will also need to create a strong online portfolio to get the message out to a wider audience and don't forget to make use of a variety of social media sites such as LinkedIn to market yourself
- Student StartUp team – Student Enterprise provide advice and support to students and graduates at the University of Portsmouth to develop their enterprising skills and set up their own business.
- Creativepool – Online networking site for people working within the creative industries. Provides a platform from which to research and network with relevant companies as well as finding advertised vacancies.
- Freelance UK – Information for freelancers including a forum, news and events and starting out advice.
- Mustard – Specialist recruitment agency working across the design sector in the UK and Internationally
- Adrem – A creative careers consultancy specialist in design and architecture recruitment.
- CareersinDesign – Specialists in the Recruitment of Interior, Product and Furniture Designers
- Eden Brown – Recruitment consultancy operating within the built environment, public sector and charity arenas. Searchable database of current vacancies. Use filters to find jobs in interior design.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.