Becoming a Kitchen Designer: Job Description & Salary Information

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A kitchen designer can earn an annual average salary of $55,000, but is it worth all the training requirements? Get the truth about job descriptions and career prospects to find out if becoming a kitchen designer is the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Kitchen Designer Career

Using a high level of creativity and artistic talent, a kitchen designer works to make a property owner's dream kitchen a reality. The following pros and cons can help you decide if this career is for you.

Pros of Being a Kitchen Designer
Good employment opportunities (13% job growth projected from 2012-2022 for all interior designers)*
Potential independence (30% are self-employed)*
Chance to use your creative side*
Can work in many industries (retail, engineering, consulting)*

Cons of Being a Kitchen Designer
Requires a bachelor's degree to get started*
Can be stressful (very deadline-driven)*
Need to use complex graphic technology to craft designs*
Must be able to be sensitive to what the client wants**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

A kitchen designer is a specialized professional who works in the field of interior design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interior designers examine a space and formulate a design plan based on their client's needs and wants. As with any interior designer, a kitchen designer applies what a client wants the kitchen to look like and drafts or plans how this design will be finalized. Although deadlines need to be met, many kitchen designers work a conventional 40 hour workweek.

A kitchen designer must understand how several factors work to influence the design of the kitchen. Aspects such as plumbing, electricity, cabinet space and appliances are essential to creating kitchen designs for residential buildings, according to the BLS. About 30% of interior designers work independently, meaning kitchen designers may work for themselves instead of being a member of an interior design company.

Job Prospects and Salary

The BLS doesn't have specific employment and salary statistics for kitchen designers. The BLS found that the annual average salary of an interior designer calculated to $55,000 in May 2014. Specifically, the bottom-earning tenth percentile earned an average annual salary of $27,000, while the top-earning tenth percentile earned an annual salary of $90,000. The BLS projected that employment of all interior designers should grow by 13% between 2012 and 2022. The organization mentioned how specialized interior designers, like kitchen designers, might see improved prospects as more residential owners keep their homes and invest in remodeling rooms like the kitchen.

Training Requirements

According to the BLS, all interior designers need a bachelor's or master's degree in order to enter the job market. The BLS mentioned that interior designers require an in-depth knowledge of computer graphics, a talent for design and extensive knowledge of the latest design trends. To find an appropriate degree program, you can look through the over 300 schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). In addition to the NASAD, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) accredits 150 academic programs in interior design across the United States.

Licensing Requirements

The BLS states that licensing varies from state-to-state concerning interior designers, let alone kitchen designers. There's a national exam from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) that most states accept as sufficient licensing. However, some states, like California, have their own tests. Being able to take the NCIDQ examination is dependent on several factors. According to the NCIDQ website, there are six different eligibility requirements for the exam. Academically, candidates may be required to have anywhere between 40 hours of school credit to a bachelor's or master's degree. Professionally, they might need interior design experience ranging from 3,520 to 7,040 hours of work. The level of education and work experience is dependent on each other.

What Do Employers Look for?

If you're not going to work independently, many companies want a kitchen designer who meets certain guidelines. Beyond educational requirements, many employers want a kitchen designer who can craft kitchens to federal or state safety or housing code standards. In addition, knowledge about ergonomic kitchen design is sometimes desired. Some companies want applicants to have some construction experience so they can comprehend how objects like cabinets are built and installed. The following jobs could be seen on job boards as of April 2012:

  • Outside of Chicago, an interior design firm needs a kitchen designer to design kitchens compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Candidates should know ergonomics and apply ergonomics to make efficient and spacious kitchens. Space planning experience or a bachelor's degree is required along with AutoCAD skills.
  • A Pennsylvania lumber and construction company is looking for a kitchen designer with at least five years of experience and a portfolio. The designer must be trained in kitchen design software and Microsoft Office. The applicants must be able to work at construction and building sites with a contractor team.
  • A kitchen cabinets manufacturer in Philadelphia wants a kitchen designer and sales representative with 2-5 years of experience. The job requires excellent communication and presentation skills and a work schedule flexibility. A 2-4 week training program is provided to increase knowledge of technical skills and products.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

If you wish to stand out in your field, you may want to gain voluntary certification to demonstrate your expertise. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) is the non-profit association that sets the professional standards for kitchen and bath designers and offers certification. Certification through NKBA is often for kitchen designers with several years experience. For example, an Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer needs two years of professional experience while a Certified Kitchen Designer needs seven years. To apply for the certification exam, a certain number of client references, professional affidavits and continuing education credits are required.

In addition to creativity, strong interpersonal skills can give you an edge in the interior design field. Given the technical aspect of a kitchen designer career, keeping abreast of design software is often desirable among job candidates. Additionally, O*NET OnLine, a website associated with the U.S. Department of Labor, states that interior designers need to possess good listening and speaking skills and an emotional sensitivity to work with construction crews and homeowners. Becoming more cognizant of what people want out of their kitchen, not what you might think a good kitchen would look like is very important in this occupation.

Alternative Careers to Consider

Architect

If you like the prospect of designing homes, but don't want to focus on kitchens or even residential spaces, an architectural career may be an option. An architect is a licensed professional who designs buildings and their infrastructure as well as residential and commercial spaces. They need to be educated in architecture, trained at an architectural firm for around three years and pass a state licensing exam, according to the BLS.

An architect requires the creativity that a kitchen designer has, along with a knowledge of computer graphics programming to design buildings. Data from the BLS found that architects (excluding those in landscape and naval) were estimated to see a 24% increase in jobs from 2010-2020, which is higher than interior design. Also, architects had a mean salary of $79,000 as of 2011.

Landscape Architect

If you're interested in designing in a specialty, but don't want to focus on kitchens, you can become a landscape architect. Landscape architects design the grounds of a property. Any land associated with public spaces, recreational areas, common greens, private institutions or large residential properties can use a landscape architect to outline what the grounds could look like.

Like kitchen designers, landscape architects interface with clients and can spend a great deal of time working outside of the office. The education path is the same as architects and all 50 states require this field to be licensed. While the job outlook is slightly lower than interior designers at 16% from 2010-2020, the average salary was $67,000 as of 2011, per the BLS.

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