Certified Kitchen & Bath Designer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a certified kitchen and bath designer's job description, salary, education and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a certified kitchen and bath designer career.
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Pros and Cons of a Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer Career

A certified kitchen and bath designer is an interior designer who specializes in designing said rooms and has obtained professional certification through the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). Read on to learn about the pros and cons of a career as a certified kitchen and bath designer to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer
Minimum education requirement to enter the field (a bachelor's degree is typically required)*
The number of interior design jobs - including kitchen and bath designers - is predicted to grow 13% between 2012 and 2022*
Often have flexible work schedules (around 25% are self-employed)*
Opportunities to be creative when performing design work*

Cons of a Career as a Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer
Professional certification takes seven years to obtain**
Can be a stressful job when working with difficult clients against strict deadlines*
Self-employed kitchen and bath designers may have to continually look for new clients and projects*
May have to work nights and weekends, as well as travel to client sites*

Source(s): *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Kitchen and Bath Association.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

As a certified kitchen and bath designer, you'll work with a variety of clients in their homes, at construction sites, in commercial buildings or in your own office. You assess the space, sketch designs, order materials, create project timelines and oversee the design process. As part of a project, you may work unusual hours, nights or weekends to accommodate a client's schedule, often traveling to his or her home or business throughout the remodeling process.

You could also work at a home furnishing store, providing design advice to customers and assisting them with choosing the right cabinets, bathtubs, sinks and other accessories for their rooms. While kitchen and bath design is already a specialty area within interior design, you may also choose to specialize further by focusing on just kitchen design or just bath design.

Salary Info

According to PayScale.com reports obtained in July 2015, the majority of kitchen and bath designers earned between $10 and $23 per hour. The total compensation for most of these professionals, factoring in wages, commissions, bonuses and profit sharing was between $25,000 and $57,000 per year. Experience also played a factor in the salary these professionals earned. Most kitchen and bath designers with 0-5 years of experience earned a median annual salary of about $31,000, while the majority of those with 20 or more years of experience earned about $45,000.

Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies kitchen and bath designers into the broader category of interior designers. The predicted job growth for all interior designers was 13% over the 2012-2022 decade, which is about as fast as average. Designers who specialize in particular areas, such as kitchen and bath design, could better fulfill customer requests and increase their job prospects by becoming experts in these areas, according to the BLS.

What Are the Requirements?

The BLS indicates that interior designers generally hold a bachelor's degree in interior design and have state licensure. Bachelor's degree programs in interior design may include multiple studio-type courses where students learn by doing - using studio time to apply design concepts learned in lectures to real-world projects. Students may also learn about computer design programs, materials used in design and building codes. While enrolled in one of these programs, students may have the opportunity to take an interior design internship, or it may be required, depending on a school attended.

Certificate, associate's and master's degree programs in interior design are also available. If you're planning on applying for NKBA certification, you'll want to look for programs and courses accredited by the NKBA.

Licensure

Although not every state requires that interior designers be licensed to practice, interior designers must be licensed to use the title 'interior designer'. Licensure requirements vary by state, but many states require that interior designers pass an exam administered by The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) to become licensed. To take the exam, designers generally need two years of experience and a bachelor's degree. The required exam takes two days to complete and includes two multiple choice sections and a practicum on which applicants are judged; the exam covers topics such as codes, building systems, construction standards and contract administration, in addition to project coordination and design application.

Certification

To become a certified kitchen and bath designer, you'll also need to obtain certification through the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). The organization offers the Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) and Certified Bath Designer (CBD) certifications. To earn either designation, you'll need to acquire at least seven years of professional interior design experience, including three years of experience specifically in residential kitchen or bath design. Additionally, you need to have completed at least 60 hours of NKBA sponsored or approved classes.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers often seek designers who have several years of experience in design, computer skills and sales experience. A survey of job postings available in April 2012 provides a snapshot of the qualifications employers seek:

  • A construction company in Virginia seeks a kitchen and bath designer with at least three years of design and sales experience to work in its showroom. Job responsibilities include using specific software programs to design spaces, assisting customers in selecting pieces and acting as a liaison between clients and contractors.
  • A Pennsylvania building supplier seeks a kitchen designer to complete requests from individual clients and stores. Experience with Auto CAD software and the 2020 Kitchen Design computer program are necessary. Also required are the ability to read blueprints for residential and commercial properties and the knowledge to evaluate projects for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • A design studio in Southern California seeks a kitchen and bath designer to play an active role in the company's marketing and strategic planning, maintain the company showroom, deliver materials to job sites and answer phones. Required qualifications include at least five years of experience in kitchen and bath design and a design degree or equivalent experience.

How to Stand Out

To show your skills and rise above the competition, you could join the NKBA or earn advanced certifications from the group.

Join the NKBA

According to its website, NKBA members have access to industry job boards, networking opportunities, client leads, chapter meetings and business forms that can help you get ahead in this field. You'll also be able to view members only classes and content found on the company's website.

Earn Advanced Certification

The NKBA offers Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer (CMKBD) certification to recognize outstanding professional accomplishments. You can obtain CMKBD certification after you've attained both CKB and CKD certification, amassed 10 years of additional professional experience (17 years total), five years of which must have been in kitchen and bath design, and taken at least 100 hours of NKBA approved or sponsored professional development courses.

Alternative Career Paths

If kitchen and bath design isn't quite what you're looking for but you're interested in building design, consider a career as an architect. Architects design buildings and structures, including homes, office buildings and community buildings. You'll typically need at professional bachelor's degree, which could take five years to complete (though you could also complete a 4-year bachelor's degree and a Master of Architecture program), and state licensure to practice. The BLS predicted that employment of architects would increase 24% between 2010 and 2020. The agency notes that in May 2011, there were approximately 84,000 architects, except landscape and navel, earning a median annual salary of about $73,000.

Individuals interested in design but who would prefer to create the items that people use rather than the rooms in which they reside, could consider careers as industrial designers. These professionals research, sketch and design products, often specializing in a particular area, such as furniture, consumer electronics, medical equipment or house wares. You'll typically need a bachelor's degree in industrial design, engineering or architecture to enter the field. The BLS predicted that jobs for industrial designers would increase 10% from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, there were nearly 29,000 employed industrial designers who earned a median annual salary of around $61,000.

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