Jobs Outlook: Fashion and Interior Design

Consumer spending boosts job market

Fashion and interior design are two areas where design is applied in a personal way: for both the designers creating fashions and styling the rooms and the customers and clients who enjoy wearing or inhabiting the finished products. Because of this, interior and fashion designers must rely on consumerism for a healthy career. If economic lows cause consumers to limit their non-essential spending, these professionals may be less in demand.

Fashion designers

Fashion design is often seen as a glamorous career, which is why the schools draw more students and turn out more graduates than there are jobs available. Only about 17,000 designers were employed in the U.S. in 2004, with one quarter working for apparel and piece goods merchant wholesalers (who sell mass market clothing to department stores and retail chains). Twenty five percent were self employed and fifteen percent worked in cut and sew apparel manufacturing. The rest worked for a number of businesses including clothing stores and footwear and accessory manufacturers.

Many aspiring fashion designers have to do more than just break away from the pack. They will very likely need to relocate to areas where the industry is concentrated, such as New York or other fashion centers.

Employment outlook

Low turnover and few new jobs being created each year means competition for jobs will be extremely high. Fashion designers will work increasingly with apparel wholesalers, as jobs in cut and sew apparel manufacturing decline due to overseas manufacturing. However, some firms will choose to retain in-house designers rather than outsourcing.

The most growth will be in affordable fashions targeted to middle income consumers. Demand for expensive, high-fashion designs will decline, as will jobs with the firms that produce them.

Fashion designer wages

This is one career where salaried professionals usually earn more than those who are freelance or self-employed.

  • Median annual earnings - $55,840
  • Middle 50 percent - $38,800 to $77,580
  • Top 10 percent - over $112,840
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $27,970

Interior designers

Thirty percent of interior designers have historically been self-employed. Another thirty percent work in specialized design services and architectural services while the rest are employed with home furnishing stores, building material dealers and residential construction companies.

Employment outlook

Average job growth will be due to interest in interior design by home and business owners and an increase in disposable income. Competition for jobs and clients is intense.

New jobs will be in the health care industry, in the form of old age and retirement residences. Increased tourism will create more interior design jobs in resorts, hotels and restaurants. Environmental (green) interior design is also an area of job growth.

Interior designer wages

  • Median annual earnings - $40,670
  • Middle 50 percent - $30,890 to $53,790
  • Top 10 percent - over $71,220
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $23,440

Annual earnings by industry (median)

  • Architectural, engineering and related services - $44,740
  • Specialized design services - $42,000
  • Furniture stores - $37,750

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004