Becoming a Design Consultant: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a design consultant's career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a design consultant is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Design Consultant

Design consultants are retail salespeople who specialize in interior design. Read on to find out if becoming a design consultant could be the right path for you.

Pros of Becoming a Design Consultant
Uncapped commissions with some positions***
Variety of specialties (kitchen and bath, showroom sales, window treatments)***
Good employment growth (10% projected from 2012 to 2022)*
Some jobs offer certification and additional training***

Cons of Becoming a Design Consultant
Relatively low wages ($36,371 average salary, Sept. 2015))**
Some consultants work both evenings and weekends*
Many jobs require long periods of time on your feet*
Consultants employed in lower-income areas may have difficulty finding work*

Sources: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **, ***May 2012 Job Listings

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Design consultants help customers purchase interior design products. These can include window treatments, home furnishings, rugs, shutters and anything else their company specializes in. In this job, some of your duties could include greeting customers, ordering inventory and scheduling installation. You'll meet with clients to help them find their personal style, show them samples, take measurements and offer price estimates. Your employer may also require that you stay up-to-date on current promotions, security practices and store policies. Some companies allow consultants to schedule their own appointments and handle business transactions such as work orders and accounts.

Career Prospects & Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that from 2012-2022, the projected employment growth for retail sales workers was 10%, which is about as fast as the average of all occupations. Job growth for retail sales workers is often directly connected to the growth of the economy, according to the BLS. Population growth was expected to increase demand for retail salespeople in general.

In Sept 2015, reported that most sales consultants in the field of interior design earned between about $10.03 and $19.68 hourly. More time on the job equaled more pay; people with 0-5 years of experience reported a salary of about $31,000, while those with 5-10 years earned a yearly salary of around $36,000.

What Are the Requirements?

The BLS notes that, in general, retail sales workers do not need a college degree. Some employers, however, prefer those with either a high school diploma or an associate's degree in interior design or a closely related field, along with prior retail experience. Some employers may request applicants with specialty experience such as home furnishings or working a showroom floor.

Since they are salespeople, design consultants should have consultative sales skills and be able to connect to a variety of individuals. Other important qualities are people skills, persistence and customer service skills.

What Employers Are Looking For

Employers generally request applicants who are self-motivated, have proven skills in sales or specialize in a certain area of interior design. Following are a few examples of job postings from May 2012:

  • A nationwide company providing in-home decorating services advertised for a design consultant at its New York City location. The preferred candidate was a self-motivated individual with experience selling window treatments and/or flooring products. Applicant should enjoy helping people and be passionate about interior decorating.
  • A home furnishing company in Cincinnati, OH, advertised for a design consultant with a flair for design, an outgoing personality, a polished image and the ability to close the deal. The company offered interior design certification and training in addition to continued education throughout employment. Previous design or sales experience was not required, but the company required a 2-year degree.
  • A retail company in Baltimore, MD, advertised for a design consultant to open and close the showroom each shift, assist customers and follow up with customers who have purchased products to ensure satisfaction. Other responsibilities included maintaining the cleanliness and appearance of the showroom, entering payments on the computer system and coordinating with customer service colleagues and district managers to handle different aspects of installation scheduling. Two successful years of retail/sales experience was required, and a college degree in interior design was preferred.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Because employers sometimes prefer people with a college degree in a related area, an associate's degree in interior design or sales/marketing could give you a leg up when searching for a job. Interior design programs cover drawing interiors, color theory, environmental design and construction documents. Marketing program courses focus on human relations, business math, professional selling and financial accounting as well as supervision.

Other Career Paths

Fashion Designer

If you enjoy dressing people more than dressing windows, a career as a fashion designer could be a better fit for you. Fashion designers sketch designs, choose fabrics and offer instructions to create clothing and footwear. They keep up with current fashion trends, decide on a particular theme and create samples to gauge reactions from editors. Although not always a requirement, fashion designers can have either an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising, art and design, fashion design or a related field. While enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program, students take courses in fine arts, textiles, selling strategies, surface design, promotion and consumer behavior. According to in May 2012, fashion designers earned a yearly salary of $32,000-$94,000, which included profit sharing, commission and bonuses.

Art Director

If you enjoy working with images and graphics, consider becoming an art director. Art directors oversee the visual aesthetics of magazines, television productions and product packaging. In this job, you would help decide how to present a visual idea, supervise staff, show products to clients and consult with clients.

The BLS reported that in 2010, over 50% of art directors were self-employed. In most cases, art directors have Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in graphic design, photography or a related field. They usually have up to five years of experience as graphic designers, fine artists or photographers before making the transition to art director. Graphic-design program courses include typography, modern art, computer literacy and figure drawing. cited in 2012 that art directors in the 10th-90th percentile range earned a yearly salary of $34,000-$88,000.

Interior Designer

If you're more interested in the creative end of the designing business and don't mind getting a bachelor's degree, you could become an interior designer. Interior designers design the furnishings and other components for various interior spaces, such as homes, airport terminals, office spaces, restaurants, industrial buildings and malls. This involves creating sketches, using computer applications, supervising projects, following up on finished projects and working with architects, contractors and engineers.

You need a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree in interior design. Interior designers must be state-licensed, which involves obtaining a combination of six years of college-level education and work experience in addition to passing an exam. The BLS cited in 2011 that the average yearly salary for interior designers was around $53,000, with the lowest ten percent earning less than $26,000 and the top ten percent earning more than $86,000.

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