2006/08: Ask Me
Q&A 14 years ago No Comments

I am interning at an architecture firm this summer and hope to work here when I graduate in May 2007. I am curious about what I might expect my salary to be right out of school. I know it depends on your location and size of firm, but I really have no idea what to expect. I love this website and I was just wondering if there are any articles covering this topic on Plinth & Chintz. Thanks so much!


(submitted by Rachel S.)

That”s a great question, Rachel, and one that not only graduating students but professionals up for an annual review or moving to another job grapple with on a regular basis, namely, “What is the market currently paying””
I think the best way to answer this question is to give you several resources that you can review regularly to track salary trends. Some good news is that the interior design industry grew 35% from 1994-2002 and is expected to have similar growth through 2010.

A good, free place to start is the U.S. Department of Labor”s Occupational Outlook Handbook. It”s revised every two years and has all kinds of information about hundreds of occupations ” not just earnings, but also working conditions, training, and job outlook.

According to their numbers, the median annual earnings for interior designers in May 2004 were $40,670. But that”s considering all designers, not just new grads, like yourself. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,890 and $53,790, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,440. They also note that, “among salaried interior designers, those in large specialized design and architectural firms tend to earn higher and more stable salaries.”

Another free resource is Careers In Interior Design. Sponsored by ASID, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, Interior Designers of Canada, IDEC, IIDA and NCIDQ, this site is a wealth of information about your future career. Spend some time on it ” it”s worth it, although their salary information comes directly from the Department of Labor site discussed above.

Yahoo”s HotJobs has an excellent discussion about salary itself: researching it, negotiating, and benefits that factor into the entire “pay package”. Consider all these things before turning down a lower-paying job that may ultimately “pay” better in the long-run with perks such as a car allowance, more vacation days, or an on-site gym.

To get some actual, current salary numbers (“finally!” you say) use the HotJobs Salary Calculator ” for $29.95 you can get a “personalized salary report” that takes into account your degree/certifications/years of experience as well as your potential employer”s location/size/etc. Or for FREE you can get the Basic Report that gives you a salary range for a particular job level based only on job description and zip code or city/state. For example, an Interior Designer I (0-2 years experience) in the 75235 zip code in Dallas, could make a median salary of $36,320 (in a range from $31,600 to $40,700). That same job in the Chicago, IL area pays about $2,000 more on average. (Here”s a hint on the HotJobs Survey: select Architecture as your Job Category, then on the next screen you can choose from Interior Design, CAD, drafting and other specific positions.)

If you really want to shell out the bucks (or maybe you can convince your school or local ASID or IIDA chapter to do so) DesignIntelligence offers their 42-page highly-detailed 2006-2007 DesignIntelligence Compensation and Salary Survey for $49.95. This is a really interesting site that feature articles on the industry and where it”s headed.

Here”s another idea ” how about coordinating your school”s ASID or IIDA chapter to keep a database of current salaries offered” Students can anonymously let the chapter know how much they were offered for various positions, whether they accepted them or not. A history wouldn”t have to be kept forever or even with any details of the company or position (well, maybe the city/state)” otherwise you”d just need the salaries that had been offered in, say, the last 12 months”

That”s all I”ve got for ya, Rachel. Hope it helps. Oh, one last bit of advice: remember that all your future raises from your new company will be based off your starting salary, so you really want to consider doing your best negotiating at hiring time. That extra $2K you negotiate when you”re hired translates into just a little bit more with each raise you get to catapult you into the next pay bracket faster than if you hadn”t negotiated it. Best of luck to you!