Interior architects design and create indoor spaces, using form and function as a guide. As an interior architect, you could be involved in designing the interiors of hotels, laboratories, schools, retail stores, and other commercial spaces. Interior architecture goes beyond the aesthetic focus of interior design by also considering safety and functionality.
An interior architect creates, presents and implements design concepts according to a client's spatial needs and wants. Responsibilities include project research, concept development, client presentations, sales consultations and implementation management. Concept presentations require scale models, charts and reports. An interior architect may also oversee a team of designers who create products (including dividers and furniture) for a project based on the design plan.
Interior architects must have strong written, oral and visual communication skills. They must visually interpret verbal instructions and suggestions. Interior architects must be creative within the constraints of a budget. Knowledge of computer design software (including AutoCAD) and illustration techniques is a must. Interior architects must know how to incorporate construction features (including plumbing, electrical and other mechanicals) into their designs. They must have a team-oriented attitude, an attention to detail and an ability to meet deadlines. Familiarity with building codes and design standards is also required.
Most employers require at least a bachelor's degree in interior architecture. A master's degree in interior architecture will make you more competitive. Coursework includes general architecture, interior design and product design. Staying abreast of current design trends and code requirements through continuing education increases your marketability. Local or state licensure may also be required to be an interior architect.
Most interior architects work in small architectural firms, though some work for commercial building companies or government agencies. Some interior architects freelance, working with architects, building companies or government organizations on a contract basis. They meet with clients at the architect's offices or the client's work site. Interior architects sometimes collaborate with a team of production designers in an architectural firm's production studio. They may also be required to visit local government offices for permits or to meet with health and safety inspectors at the job site.
A growing demand for commercial spaces will help boost the need for interior architects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the architectural industry can expect above-average job growth from 2006 through 2016, at a rate of 18 percent (or approximately 23,000 jobs added to the trade during this period). The growing need for health care and nursing home facilities to care for our aging population will drive demand for interior architects who specialize in these types of spaces. Competition will be greatest for jobs with high-profile architectural firms, which offer high-profile projects and larger salaries.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that architects earn a median annual salary of $64,150 (2006 data). Partners in architectural firms or interior architects who own their consulting business may experience fluctuating income depending on the business climate.
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