How to Become a Kitchen Designer: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a kitchen designer. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career in kitchen design.

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Do I Want to Be a Kitchen Designer?

Kitchen designers work as specialized interior designers, focusing on working exclusively with kitchen spaces. They work with clients to design all aspects of a kitchen, including color, fixtures, cabinetry, wall coverings and lighting. Travel is sometimes required, in addition to often working evenings and weekends.

Job Requirements

Registered interior designers typically complete a bachelor's degree program that includes instruction in drawing, computer-aided design (CAD) and interior design. Credentials specific to kitchen design include the Associate Kitchen & Bath Designer (AKBD) and Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) certifications offered by the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The following table contains the core requirements for kitchen designers:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Minimum of 30 hours of approved coursework for AKBD credential, 60 hours for CKD credential; coursework can be found as part of a college degree or through the National Kitchen & Bath Association.* Bachelor's degree required for registered interior designers.**
Degree Field Interior design**
Licensure Requirements vary by state; designers cannot use the designation 'registered interior designer' without licensure**
Certification Certification is available, but not mandatory**
Experience No experience is required for entry-level positions*; 2 years of experience is required for AKBD credential, 7 years for CKD credential**
Key Skills Kitchen designers must be artistic, creative and detail oriented individuals; they should also have strong interpersonal, problem-solving and visualization skills**
Computer Skills Experience with computer aided design programs (Autodesk AutoCAD, Graphisoft ArchiCAD), graphic imaging programs (Adobe Illustrator) and video editing programs (Autodesk 3ds Max, Maxon Cinema 4D) may be useful for kitchen designers***
Technical Skills Kitchen designers use tools such as drafting triangles, three dimensional laser digitizers, drafting scales and graphics tablets***
Additional Requirements Designers may sometimes have to work weekend and evening hours to meet deadlines; some travel may also be required**

Sources: *National Kitchen & Bath Association, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Complete Education

The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) currently accredits programs of various levels (certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree) that have special emphasis on kitchen design. Additionally, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredit general interior design programs. Students can pursue a degree program in interior design to train for this profession, and the coursework at an accredited school will meet requirements for eventual certification. The NKBA also offers courses and study options.

Students who pursue a degree at the bachelor's level typically complete their educational requirements in 4 years. Courses in these programs may include design fundamentals, interior design graphics, interior lighting, color theory, interior construction and materials of interior design. Students also gain experience with computer aided design (CAD) software, which is essential for kitchen designers.

Success Tip:

  • Get involved outside of the classroom. Some interior design programs may offer the chance to be active with student associations. For instance, the NKBA offers student membership that provides access to local chapter meetings as well as options for searching for jobs or internships. By providing networking opportunities, these associations may be helpful to students who wish to begin thinking about their professional careers. Programs may also offer field trips and chances to participate in interior design competitions.

Step 2: Get Experience with An Entry-Level Position

Kitchen designers may begin their careers as assistants to registered kitchen designers. Assistants provide support in all areas of kitchen design. Other graduates may work at home furnishing stores, showrooms or design centers. Sales, customer service, marketing or other non-design positions with such companies can provide opportunities to develop contacts and gain relevant experience.

Success Tips:

  • Maximize your early years in the workforce. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) offers a monitored program for entry-level design workers. This program, called the Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP), gives students supervised, documented work experience while preparing them for certification. Credit is also given for observation and continuing education experiences. Students must register for the program within 2 years of graduation; it typically takes 2-3 years to complete.
  • Sharpen necessary computer skills. Though designers may do freehand work, CAD software is used widely in the field and very important for kitchen designers. Working alongside of experience professionals is a great way for students to hone and build on the computer skills they have learned in their degree programs.

Step 3: Pursue Certification and/or Licensing

Optional certifications for those working in this field are available from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The exams for these credentials test professionals on business management, products, materials, planning, design and construction. There are several levels of this voluntary certification: the Associate Kitchen & Bath Designer credential is possible after 2 years of qualifying work, while the Certified Kitchen Designer credential requires 7 years of experience, of which 3 years are focused on kitchen and bath design. These certifications require client references and professional affidavits in addition to a passing score on the exam. Eventually, with 100 hours of education and 10 years of the right experience, as well as previous certifications, the Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer (CMKBD) credential can become a possibility.

Kitchen designers who wish to use the designation 'registered interior designer' must pursue licensure according to the rules of their state. The NCIDQ offers a licensing and certification exam for designers who hold a bachelor's degree and have 2 years of experience. Interior designers in states that don't require a license can choose to take this exam if they want to increase their credentials. The exam assesses designers' knowledge of design development, professional practice and contract documents. A passing score on the exam is required for professional membership in the American Society of Interior Designers and the International Interior Design Association.

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