Obtaining your interior design certification can be a monumental accomplishment. An interior design certification is achieved once you pass an exam testing your knowledge of the field. Completing this challenge will not only provide additional employment opportunities but will give your clients and employers confidence in your capabilities.
The most beneficial certifications include the NCIDQ certification for interior designers, CID certification for interior decorators, and field-related certifications. This article will outline the basics of obtaining your certification in 5 manageable steps.
5 Steps to Obtaining Your Interior Design Certification
Step 1: Determine Your Certification
Before choosing which certification to pursue, you must determine if you are an interior designer or an interior decorator. Interior designers have obtained a two-year or four-year degree from an accredited interior design program. Interior decorators are interior design professionals with little or no formal training.
If you’re hoping to bolster your resume or gain access to high-level interior design positions, you should pursue the NCIDQ certification. You can only take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification Exam when you have met the extensive education and work experience requirements. Obtaining this interior design certification will assure your employers that you possess the knowledge necessary to perform extensive design projects.
If you choose not to pursue a degree, you can still become a Certified Interior Decorator (CID). Certified Interior Decorators are held to a strict standard of field requirements needed to consult their clients. Clients will rest easier knowing that their decorator is talented and knowledgeable.
You may want to consider additional interior design certifications depending on your design specialization. Industry affiliations, such as the National Kitchen and Bath Association and the American Lighting Association offer specialized certifications. Interior design is a competitive field. Pursuing additional certifications can give you the competitive edge necessary to compete in the industry.
In addition, be sure to check your state’s specific licensing requirements.
Step 2: (NCIDQ) Complete an Interior Design Program
Becoming an interior designer requires a lot of commitment, but it can be very rewarding. Most professionals recommend pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Once you obtain this, you can apply for your NCIDQ certification after a minimum of 3520 hours of qualifying work experience. It is still possible to obtain your certification with an associate’s degree with a minimum of 60 hours of coursework and 5280 hours of work experience, or 40 hours of coursework and 7040 hours of work experience.
While it is not required to graduate from a CIDA accredited program to achieve the NCIDQ certification, you may want to consider this option for its career benefits. CIDA accredited programs must adhere to strict curriculum standards that ensure proficiency. Many architectural and interior design firms now require their employees to graduate with degrees from these programs.
Step 3: (NCIDQ) Gain an Internship or Work Experience
Gaining experience in college is an excellent way to hit the ground running. Candidates in the Bachelor program can gain up to 1760 hours of work experience prior to their degree completion. However, interior design internships can be difficult to find. Speak with your professors about any leads or consider working in a related field, such as flooring, furniture, or lighting. Time in these positions will fulfill a portion of your work experience requirements.
Step 4: (NCIDQ or Other Specialty Exams) Get a Job in an Interior Design-Related Field
Obtaining your degree is an exciting step towards building your interior design career. Once you finish the program, you should find a job at an interior design firm or in a related field. If at all possible, try to work under an NCIDQ certified supervisor or a licensed architect that provides design services. This will allow you to maximize your hours and complete the work experience requirement quicker. If you find a job in a related field, the experience will not accumulate as quickly, but can still count toward your requirements.
Step 5: Study and Sign up for Certification Exams
The NCIDQ Exam requires the completion of the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX), Interior Design Professional Exam (IFPX), Interior Design Practicum (PRAC). The PRAC is perhaps the most intimidating exam since it tests your real life interior design skills and requires a full day to complete.
Organizations such as ASID and IIDA may offer study sessions and workshops to assist with passing the NCIDQ Exam. NCIDQ also offers valuable resources. In addition, there are several books available that outline the requirements necessary to pass.
Certified Interior Designers International offers a 2-6 week online course to prepare for the CID exam. This is a self-paced program that goes over the essentials of interior decorating, such as color comprehension, space requirements, and various decorating specialties. You can also complete the exam online. Once you’re a certified decorator, you gain access to CID International’s resources and any networking employers.
Exams for design-related fields, such as the National Kitchen and Bath Association, are usually held in a similar format. The requirements for these certifications range significantly, but most have accreditation for interior designers and interior decorators.
An interior design certification is not an indicator of talent; it is a visible representation of your commitment to the practice. An NCIDQ certification requires extensive work experience and a formal education, but it allows you to maximize your interior design career to its fullest. If you prefer interior decoration, becoming a certified interior decorator reassures your clients that you possess the professional knowledge needed for their projects.
Whichever interior design certification you pursue, there are several resources available to assist you. IIDA and ASID are open to both interior decorators and interior designers. Contact your local association today and begin the next step of your career.