Is an Internship or Apprenticeship Important for Interior Designers?

By Robin Callan on January 21st, 2014

Wondering if an interior design internship or apprenticeship is right for you? Adding this to your degree plan offers you several advantages:

1. Try out the career before you commit. Considering the 90,000 hours most people will spend at work in their lifetimes, you'll do for yourself a huge favor if your profession is one you look forward to every day. The best way to find out if interior design is a good career fit for you is to incorporate an internship or apprenticeship into your education plan. Discovering firsthand what parts of the trade appeal to your particular strengths can also help you better tailor your course work to suit the particular job you want to pursue after graduation.

Is an Internship or Apprenticeship Important for Interior Designers?

2. Supplement your education. Practice makes perfect, and you'll get a lot of it while studying for your degree. But the added practice that an internship or apprenticeship provides is equally invaluable. It could be the ticket to higher grades and a higher starting salary after graduation if you get more experience with some of the challenging aspects of the job, or the tasks that require repetition to master.

What interior design educational options are available?

3. Take advantage of the networking opportunity. Personal connections are one of the most important aspects of landing a job, and there's no better way to showcase your talents to a potential employer than to work with them as an intern or apprentice. Show them how vital you are to their team, and they'll either hire you themselves or help you connect with another design firm.

4. Create job experience for your resume. It is infinitely easier to land that great job after graduation if you have applicable work experience on your resume. An internship or apprenticeship also shows your level of passion and commitment to the craft — something employers truly value.

Is an Internship or Apprenticeship Important for Interior Designers?

Tips for Interior Design Interns and Apprentices

1. Use social media to help you land an internship or apprenticeship. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram make it easy to connect with potential employers. Engaging with designers and design firms by commenting on their blogs and social media posts makes your name more familiar than other applicants, and that familiarity is vital in a competitive job market. If you've already established this virtual relationship with a designer via social media outlets, they'll be more apt to respond to your inquiry emails in the future. After a year of following my blog and leaving comments along the way, one of my readers wrote to say she was considering changing careers and asked if she could intern with me. Although I hadn't been considering adding an intern to my team, I didn't hesitate to book a meeting with her to explore the idea because I felt like I already “knew” her.

2. Set a time limit for unpaid arrangements. Some small businesses don't have the budget for paid internships and apprenticeships, but they may agree to share their insights and tricks of the trade in exchange for your help with client work. No one can afford to work without compensation forever, so it pays in the long run to be up front about how much time and what duration you're willing to devote to this endeavor. Establishing these parameters before you begin the internship prevents you from finding yourself in limbo later on down the road.

Is an Internship or Apprenticeship Important for Interior Designers?

3. Don't take the easy road. When considering where to intern, you may be intimidated by a designer you admire or find the idea of working in a high-volume firm daunting. It's perfectly natural to be nervous about the whole prospect of either scenario, but I encourage you to take the opportunity to push yourself through your fears. You'll learn far more from a challenging apprenticeship, and chances are good you'll make better networking connections as well.

4. Consider doing more than one. There are big design firms and small ones — firms that specialize in residential projects, or confine their practice to specific commercial projects like restaurants or the hotels. Working with a variety of businesses can broaden your experience and help you narrow your post-grad job search if you find one specialty or type of firm more appealing than another.

Is an Internship or Apprenticeship Important for Interior Designers?

Bonus: Want to learn professional interior design skills? Enroll in the New York Institute of Art and Design's Interior Design Course today!

About the Author

Robin Callan is the founder of Room Fu – Knockout Interiors, a Best of Austin award-winning interior design firm whose work has been featured by HGTV, Apartment Therapy and various other publications. Her popular design blog for Room Fu features modern home decor, design tips, and a decent amount of snark.