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ASID’s 2 New Reports Shed Light on Designers’ Salaries

11/18/2019 By Adrian Thompson

Following the release of its first Interior Design Salaries and Benefits General Report in June, the American Society of Interior Designers (​ASID​) has compiled additional results highlighting how career path, specialty and firm size impact salary in two reports: the ASID 2019 Salaries & Benefits Specialization Report and Firm Size report.

The findings shed light on the compensation differences among design professionals specializing in the commercial or residential space, or both, and the associated benefits and salary trends in firms of all sizes.

While commercial designers generally take home higher median salaries, it was found that firm size does not correlate with designers’ pay and that most salaries depend on business profits.


Credit: ASID

The reports also revealed the career timing for peak salary and the importance of certifications and licenses.

ASID 2019 Salaries & Benefits Specialization Report

The ASID 2019 ​Salaries & Benefits Specialization Report ​examines the focus of practice and the resulting variations in salary. Survey participants were comprised of:

  • 39.3% commercial designers
  • 37.4% residential designers
  • 23.3% who work in both sectors

The majority of commercial designer respondents specialize in workplace (70%), followed by hospitality (35%) and healthcare (33%), with others reporting work in education, government and financial services, retail, facility management, historic preservation and entertainment. The residential respondents noted a majority focus on kitchen and bath (70%) and luxury (69%), with others noting aging-in place, multifamily, multi-generation, historic preservation, sustainability and model home projects.

Takeaways include:

Specialty affects compensation type:

Specializations can impact compensation in both amount and the method by which it is received by the professional.

Commercial vs. residential salary:

Median salaries were generally higher for commercial designers.

Business profits can impact salaries:

More than half of residential design professionals and those practicing both commercial and residential design reported salaries dependent on business profits.

Firm size and salary don’t correlate:

While professionals employed in firms with 100 or more employees have the highest median salary regardless of specialization, professionals specializing in hospitality and luxury residential design at firms with two to nine employees had higher median salaries than those at firms with 10 to 99 employees.

Benefits differ from commercial to residential sectors:

Commercial design professionals indicated the receipt of multiple benefits, whereas professionals in residential and those practicing both commercial and residential design indicated only a few, with a relatively high percentage of professionals indicating none of the benefits listed are received.

Credentials, Licenses and Certifications

Additionally, this report dives into the factors that contribute to receiving top salaries. ASID collected data to examine the geographic locations and the career levels in which the highest salaries can be achieved. As with the original compensation report, the importance of credentials, licenses and certifications was clear.

[Related: AIA Compensation Report 2019 Finds Pay and Benefit Increases]

Findings show:

The importance of official affiliations:

Certifications/credentials/licenses were most desired by commercial design professionals and had an impact on salary. ​NCIDQ certification in particular had a salary impact in commercial.

Bringing more to the table with added skills:

Business skills drive higher median salaries in commercial, management skills in residential, and management and communication skills in commercial and residential.

West coast salaries lead:

Median salaries were consistently reported highest in the West.

How salary and benefits lead to workplace satisfaction:

Design professionals who indicated higher satisfaction in salary and benefits had higher median salaries. However, work satisfaction can also be fueled by other factors.

ASID 2019 Salaries & Benefits Firm Size Report

The ASID 2019 ​Salaries & Benefits Firm Size Report emphasized many key results from the Specialization report, in particular, the importance of certifications and additional business skills. It also sheds insight on how firm structure, size and characteristics impact the compensation of its employees.

Notable research results find:

Room to grow:

Salaries are higher at companies where there is room for upward mobility – median salaries were significantly higher for design professionals employed at large firms compared to sole practitioners. Larger firms also reported more stable growth in income.

Significant median salary gap between small and large firms:

The largest difference in median salary was between sole practitioners with more than 30 years of experience and professionals at large firms with the same experience, at an amount of about $40,000.

The “decade difference:”

​Median salary increased with years of experience, with the largest jump from 10 years or less to 11 to 20 years.

Salary and satisfaction lack strong correlation:

​Although higher median salaries were observed mostly among those who are more satisfied, sole practitioners and professionals in small firms may consider satisfaction in the organization to be a source for retention, whereas satisfaction in the overall profession may be an important motivating factor for professionals in medium and large firms.

The ASID 2019 Salaries & Benefits Specialization Report and Firm Size report can be found on asid.org.

Read next: IIDA’s Leadership Discusses the Importance of Diversity in the Design Industry