Stephen F. Austin State University

Career Opportunities

Residential Design

Residential design refers to the design of private dwellings. In such projects, the designer works closely with the person who actually will occupy the home. Establishing rapport and trust with the residential client is particularly important as the working relationship is a close one. Tasks may include space planning, furniture selection, and the specification of window treatments, interior finishes, art, and accessories. Some designers specialize solely in the design of residential kitchens and baths.

Specialized areas of residential design include:

Commercial Design

Commercial design focuses on the creation of spaces that will be used by the public. Interior designers are challenged to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their clients which becomes more complex when large numbers of people occupy a structure. Building codes, life safety regulations, and accessibility standards are paramount in this area of design. The designer usually works closely with the owner or developer of the space, not with the person who will ultimately inhabit the space.

Specialized areas of commercial design include hospitality, healthcare, institutional, educational, retail, corporate, and facility management as defined below:

Lighting Design

This area of the profession addresses the design of the luminous environment for a variety of spaces. Effective lighting design is guided by concerns for user productivity, safety, energy efficiency, sustainability, and aesthetics.

Product Design

Some designers focus on the creation of new products for the design industry. Selected examples include the design of (a) furniture; (b) patterns and colorations for wall covering, fabrics, rugs, and carpet; (c) lighting luminaries; and (d) tableware.

What Can I Do With This Major?

  • Commercial design:
  • Offices
  • Retail
  • Healthcare
    • Hospitals, clinics, medical offices
  • Hospitality:
    • Restaurants
    • Bars and clubs
    • Hotels and Motels
    • Resorts
    • Theaters
  • Civic design:
    • Airports
    • Government facilities
    • Educational institutions
  • Residential design:
    • Single-family
    • Apartments
    • Condominiums
  • In-store design
  • Design specialties:
    • Bath
    • Kitchen
    • Lighting
    • Ergonomic
    • Sustainable
    • Elder
    • Universal
  • Renovations
  • Sales/Marketing
  • Management
  • Education
  • Design firms
  • Architecture firms
  • Design divisions of corporations/institutions
  • Department stores
  • Home furnishings stores
  • Building and supplies dealers
  • Product manufacturers
  • Residential construction companies
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Federal government departments
  • Colleges and universities
  • Self-employed/freelance
  • Interior designers/architects study human and environmental interaction to create safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing spaces through planned use of light, color, mechanical systems, and furnishings.
  • Learn the creative and business aspects of the field, and how to work effectively on multidisciplinary teams including architects and contractors.
  • Develop computer aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) software skills.
  • Cultivate creative, technical, interpersonal, and management skills for success in the field.
  • Create and maintain a design portfolio.
  • Conduct informational interviews with designers in a variety of settings to learn about specialties.
  • Complete an internship to gain relevant experience.
  • Join relevant student organizations and seek leadership roles. Become a student member of the American Society of Interior Designers.
  • Consider studying abroad to gain multicultural experience.
  • After finishing a design degree and gaining required experience, prepare to take the qualifying exam administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).
  • Research state requirements to become licensed or certified in a specialty area.
  • Maintain current knowledge of state and federal building, safety, and accessibility codes.
  • Exhibit strong communication skills including active listening to meet clients' needs and writing to create work proposals.
  • Expect to work in a fast-paced environment, meeting deadlines and working on multiple projects at a time.
  • Designers' schedules may be influenced by work-load, deadlines, and the economy.
  • Build a network of contacts, especially if you're considering freelance work, to stay current on industry trends and build clientele.
  • Earn a graduate degree in design to increase opportunities and to pursue a faculty position.
  • Engage in scholarly research to expand the knowledge base of the profession.


Those with training in interior design may pursue the following career fields with the right experiences. Some may require additional training or graduate degrees. If these areas interest you, take relevant coursework, complete internships, and pursue related activities to prepare for the fields. For example, someone trained in interior design who wants to work for a design publication should develop strong writing skills, consider minoring in journalism or English, work for a campus or community newspaper, etc.

Some related fields: