Guide to Becoming A Building Designer

Becoming a building designer leads to many personal and career-based rewards. Read a guide to becoming a building designer and start your dream job fast.

The path to becoming a building designer leads to satisfying personal growth and career-based rewards. Building designers require less training and education than architects but still participate in all phases of the building process. Communicating with clients, drafting blueprints and overseeing construction are just some of the responsibilities involved in a career as a building designer today.

A degree in drafting/design technology is necessary. Certification is recommended even in states where not required by law. Jobs are available with construction companies, architectural/engineering firms and more. Learning about education requirements, tuition costs and potential average starting salaries for this career is an important first step. Read ahead for an informative guide to becoming a building designer and starting your dream job today.                   

Differences Between Building Design and Interior Design/Decoration

Confusing building design and interior design/decoration is a common and understandable misperception. Both types of design involve elements of architecture, which is perhaps the main reason for the confusion between them. The primary difference between building design and interior design involves structural safety and integrity.

A building designer is responsible for creating safe building structures with support systems in place to prevent movement, shifting and collapse. Interior design focuses on spatial and furniture planning, which utilizes computer-aided design (CAD), manual drawing and color/fabric to accomplish its goals. They reshape, repurpose and transform rooms for specific purposes and/or visual impact. Both building and interior designer careers carry minimum training requirements as conditions for getting hired. Interior decorators are not required to have any formal education, however.

Architects and Design-Build

The job of an interior designer is commonly confused with the job of an architect and concept of design-build. Design-build is a project delivery/management system certified by the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA). Design-build incorporates collaboration between building designers/building contractors under one contract. Architects are required to obtain a degree from an accredited school approved by National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Architects must pass the Architecture Registration Examination and obtain a license prior to getting hired.

Benefits of a Building Designer Career

Building design is an interesting, creative career field filled with important responsibilities. Working as a building designer surrounds you with peers who have similar interests. Building design offers the possibility of fast-paced work environments and important deadlines. The career often involves paid travel that leads to experiencing many fascinating locations across the U.S. and around the world. The job leaves a lasting impression by improving cities wherever projects are successfully completed. An estimated 13,000 buildings are constructed each day in the U.S. alone. These numbers are projected to remain consistent through 2050. Therefore, building designers have ongoing job security for multiple decades to come.

Building Design - Job Possibilities

Building designers are involved in every phase of a building construction project from initial draft to final nail hammered into the structure. Because the job requires versatility, multiple position titles and responsibilities exist. Jobs as a drafter, town planner or production designer are common. Framer, project coordinator, restoration manager and computer aided design (CAD) designer are also possible. Qualified building designers make excellent consultants because the job involves liaising between clients, customers, architects and city council members. Average starting salary for a building designer is approximately $54,000/yr but salaries range up to $72,000 and more based on education, experience and location.

Required Education, Tuition and Financial Aid

Building designers, also referred to as building drafters, must obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree in architecture as a condition for getting hired. Drafting, mathematics, construction and physical science are common required courses when pursuing your degree. Computer aided design/drafting, commercial design and residential design are all areas of specialization included in building design degree programs. Certification is not required in most states but is highly recommended to improve job placement and salary potential. Certification is obtainable via the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD).


Tuition for obtaining a building design degree varies based on institution policies, type of degree and the state in which you attend school. Tuition for a two-year associate or four-year bachelor’s degree in architecture ranges widely between $15,000 and $65,000+ per year. Status as an in-state or out-of-state student also impacts tuition costs. For example, the University of Texas at Austin (School of Architecture) charges $21,910/yr in-state tuition and $45,954/yr for out-of-state students.

Financial Aid

Various sources of financial aid are potentially available when you complete the Free Application for Federal School Aid (FAFSA). Federal Pell Grants and loans via the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program are popular financial aid sources. Scholarships from the Architects Foundation and merit-based scholarships directly from your school might also be available to help pay tuition costs. Ask an admissions office representative at your preferred schools about scholarship and grant programs available for you. Also inquire about the qualification requirements for each one.

Online Schools for Building Design

Choosing the best accredited online building design degree program requires research into program options, tuition costs and location preferences. Online learning is as common as in-person education in modern times. Online classes are also convenient because they eliminate commutes and/or relocation. A few of the best online schools for building design in 2021 include:

How to Find a Building Design Job Today

Multiple, effective resources for finding employment are available in 2021. Job-board websites such as Indeed and Monster all post available building design positions across the nation daily. SimplyHired, GlassDoor and ZipRecruiter are also reliable online resources for finding building designer jobs today. The aforementioned sites post available job openings for a vast variety of career fields, including building design. Job-search websites designed to specifically help find building design/architect jobs include: