Do I need a qualification to be an interior designer?

In a world of hazy Google searches, suspect customer service advice and organisations confusing fact with sales opportunities, there’s really no doubt why the number one question staff at The Interior Design Academy are asked is: Do I need a qualification to be an interior designer?

While the Academy has a long standing view on this subject, we decided to get to the bottom of it once and for all.

After extensive research, long discussions with Fair Trade branches and an in depth analysis of The Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) website, we can confirm that a qualification is not required to practice as an interior designer in Australia and the same is also true for New Zealand.

Our investigation then turned to that of a questions of licensing. Generally, to obtain a license for a specific field, education and qualification requirements must be met to qualify.

So, do you need a license to operate as an interior designer in Australia or New Zealand?  Again the answer is no.

You will however, need to arrange the hire of specialist trades requiring their own licenses so you should be aware of trades that do require a license (Visit ABLIS).

The lines tend to get a little blurry when exploring the specific services an interior designer might provide. For instance:

  • A Home Building License may be required when undertaking residential building work in many states. This work however is likely to be operated by your tradies again and relates to pumping and electrical labour.
  • In Victoria, you will be required to obtain a Registration of Building Practitioners if you operate as a draftsperson. A draftsperson provides working drawings for interiors.
  • A QBCC licence is not required to operate as an interior designer in Queensland (visit QBCC)

If you are unsure as to whether or not you require specific licenses, or for further information to back up our findings, we would suggest that you conduct your own research by contacting your local authorities:

Fair Trading Queensland     13 74 68

NSW Government Fair Trading      13 32 20

Consumer Affairs Victoria     1300 55 81 81

ACT Government Access Canberra    02 6207 300

Department of Commerce WA      1300 136 237

Tasmanian Government Consumer Affairs & Fair Trading    (03) 6165 3400

Consumer and Business Services SA     131 882

Northern Territory Consumer Affairs     1800 019 319

Commerce Commission New Zealand    0800 943 600

It is important to remember that the interior design industry is unregulated. There are no specific rules or restrictions put in place by the likes of an official government body or board that regularly checks in to make sure the industry is operating correctly (sometimes this is a shame). Therefore there is also no need to have any specific type of qualification to be an interior designer

It’s a common misconception that the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) and the Design Institute of New Zealand (IDNZ) are the governing bodies of the interior design industry however both organisations were formed to support and connect all areas of design within each country.

If you still feel like you are wading through murky water with regards to your own individual situation, Fair Trade advises that you contact a professional advice expert such as a solicitor, financial advisor or a business broker for information specific to your needs.  In New Zealand, you can contact your local community law centre for free legal advice (visit Community Law).

We would also encourage you to take a little search on interior design job vacancies and study the necessary requirements for working in a firm. You will soon discover that experience is the number one priority of what it takes to be a successful interior designer.

For further information on this topic, be sure to read our blog post What it takes to be an interior designer.

*All information and research are relevant at the time of writing.