How to Become a Floral Designer
If you are interested in a career in design, have a creative mind, and want to go into business for yourself one day, becoming a floral designer is a natural fit. Floral design is a unique field — it is the only design profession for which you do not need an education beyond high school. Far from a traditional 9 to 5 job in an office cubicle, work as a floral designer requires face to face time with customers, long hours (especially on weekends and holidays), and an eye for beauty.
Being a floral designer means getting in touch with people’s emotions — flowers are usually sent at highly emotional times. Your creative work as a floral designer will grace wedding receptions, funerals, birthdays, and office parties. If you enjoy flowers and want a career that can lead to opening your own business, consider becoming a floral designer.
What kind of education does a floral designer need?
There is no need to earn a college degree if you intend on working your whole life as a floral designer. Most floral designers earn their high school diploma (or equivalency degree) then jump right into a job at a flower shop or other florist venue so they can learn the necessary skills “on the job”. Though a student of floral design can learn the basic skills they need in a very short time (a few months on the job), like any design career the more experience you have designing floral arrangements, the more you learn.
Having said that, there are floral design schools, private and public, that award certification and even associates degrees in the field. You can find floral design courses at private floral design schools, vocational or tech schools, and lots of four year community colleges. These floral design programs require a high school diploma or equivalent before a student is admitted, and they can last from just a few weeks up to one year. During this course, students learn the basics of flower arrangement, the biology of different kinds of flowers, cutting and taping techniques, color and texture theory, trends in flower design, and the proper handling and care of different flowers. The high end floral design programs (those at four year community colleges) also instruct their students somewhat in the business side of floral design, such as pricing and management.
For people who want the security of a four year degree from a university (in case a career in floral design doesn’t work out) there are bachelor’s degrees that will inform a person’s tendency toward floral design. Earning a degree in horticulture, floriculture, or ornamental design (or really any other design field) is one way to learn what you need about flowers, while degrees in plain old biology may not instruct the student as well in the design aspect of the job as they need.
Can I get certified as a floral designer?
Thanks to the American Institute of Floral Designers, you can earn a certification that proves to future employers or customers that you have achieved professional status in the field of floral design. The AIFD gives accreditation examinations consisting of a written test and an on-site floral arrangement exam. The written test covers basic floral terminology and biology while the on-site test requires certification hopefuls to complete five different floral designs in four hours — a funeral tribute, a basic table arrangement, a wedding arrangement, a piece of wearable flower art, and a category of flowers up to the candidate’s discretion. This is a very extensive exam for a field in which there is no real requirement for certification, but apparently the AIFD takes itself quite seriously.
How do I get a job arranging flowers?
Floral designers usually begin their careers working as cashiers or even delivery agents for retail stores that sell flowers. These are the easiest jobs to get in the business, but they offer plenty of opportunity for advancement. You get your first experience with flowers in an entry level job, then after you complete some form of design training (whether on the job or in a school) you begin to work your way up the ladder, hopefully landing a job as a chief floral designer.
For people who want to start their own business, the path is much the same. Usually after holding the job of chief floral designer for a few years, a person has built up enough credentials (and a customer base) to start off on their own. A flower shop can be a real moneymaker, especially during “wedding season” or in a high traffic area. Outside of advancing to a position of supervisor at a retail shop or opening your own floral design business, there’s not much space to grow in the field of floral design.
What type of person makes a good floral designer?
Obviously, a good floral designer loves flowers. They are also creative people, with the mind of an artist but the heart of a customer service rep. Successful floral designers are excellent communicators both in words and on paper. A good designer of any type is both a master problem solver and a workaholic — there are no “regular hours” when you work in design, as the holidays will be some of your busiest times. If you plan to open your own floral design business, you’ll need to be able to rein in your creative mind, budget your time and your finances, and work well with the general public.
How Much Money Do Floral Designers make?
The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that an average annual salary for floral designers was $23,230 in May 2008. That number does not take experience or administrative status into account — there are plenty of floral designers working as chief designers or running floral businesses that make five times that amount. That low figure is probably due to the low starting salary of floral designers, sometimes little more than minimum wage. According to that same report, the highest paid 10 percent of floral designers earned an average of more than $45,000 a year, comparable to teacher salaries in some states. Pay is slightly higher in larger retail settings, like chain grocery stores, than in small flower shops.
There’s no easier path to a career in a creative design field than the training required to become a floral designer. People interested in running a small business should take note of relatively low overhead costs associated with running a flower shop, and the steady income due to a near constant need for various types of flower arrangements. If you have a passion for design and aren’t looking for a six figure salary, a career in floral design can be as rewarding as it is taxing.