Short Answer: Yes.
I’m assuming that most people asking this question are doing so because they would like to get hired at an interior design or architecture firm at some point. So what better place to start than to look at an actual job posting?
Here is one for an entry level Interior Designer position at a multidisciplinary architecture firm in Chicago. Requirements include (among other things):
- Degree in Interior Design
- LEED Accreditation (preferred)
- Minimum 4 Years Experience
- Proficiency in AutoCAD, Revit, and Sketchup
- Proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite
If you spend any time on LinkedIn looking for job postings you will quickly notice that they are all the same. The first requirement is always a degree in interior design from an accredited school. So there is your answer.
But in case that isn't enough for you, here are a few more reasons:
You have to learn the hard skills somewhere. As shown in the example posting above, to get hired at a firm you need a few hard skills. These skills include the following software at the minimum:
- Adobe InDesign
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Photoshop
- 3DS Max (depends on the firm)
- VRay for Sketchup (depends on the firm)
- Lumion (depends on the firm)
- Rhino (depends on the firm)
You will also need a knowledge of environmental psychology, building codes, accessibility codes, and proper application of interior finishes. This knowledge is the foundation upon which our trade is built. Doctors go to school to learn the practice, they don’t just read WebMD. Neither should you.
Your classmates are your first coworkers. I went to a small school and had classes with the same cohort of girls (and one boy) all four years of college. We were a family. I lived with some, traveled the world with others, and made memories with them all. I am a better designer because of my friends. We channeled all competitive tendencies into a means to build each other up and make each other better.
It was also in the classroom that I learned how to work in a group setting and work with (not against) conflicting personalities and design preferences. That experience has been invaluable now that I am in the workplace.
Your professors will be your bridge into the professional world. Professors have contacts in the industry and will give you the keys to the kingdom if you let them. My three main studio professors became like second mothers to me. They knew what I was capable of and how to push me when I wasn’t doing my best. They were the ones that recommended that I apply for my first big internship, and all three of them reviewed my portfolio and resume before I went in for the interview. They gave me my first big break. I owe everything I am as a designer to them.
Professional Organization Student Chapters. Professional organizations are just that: they are professional. Memberships can be quite pricey and the events are tailored to people who are already in the industry. Luckily student chapters exist! Our school was an IIDA Campus Center and through it I was able to attend factory tours, career days, design charrettes, and job shadowing events. All of these events were created for students and designed to help you make connections in the professional world.
Alumni Associations. Our alumni association has a Facebook page dedicated to jobs postings and networking opportunities. Having a pre-made network of fellow graduates is invaluable when job searching. Its really a no-brainer.
You will have access to tools that you would not have otherwise. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an 11 x 17 printer, a plotter, or an entire finish library at my fingertips. Do you? You know who does? A school!
You will learn how to think. I saved this one for last because I think it is the most important. I have always had an eye for design. Most people who consider this profession do. But I didn’t know how to think like a designer. I had to learn how to walk before I could run.
Until you have built a firm foundation of art history and a knowledge of design principles, you won’t get anywhere. Design thinking requires you retrain your brain to see the world in an entirely new way. It requires you to use a completely different set of problem solving skills than what is taught in high schools today. There is no way to learn and practice design thinking in a vacuum, you need people to collaborate with and challenge you.
And that’s the real benefit of school: it provides you with an environment where you can collaborate, make mistakes, learn, and be creative while setting you up for the best possible success when you graduate and seek a real job in the industry.