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Interior Design Certification

Interior design certification is a highly sought credential in the industry and can enhance your career options. Read more about the available programs, certification requirements and common course topics.

What Are the Requirements for Interior Design Certification?

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) offers several options for fulfilling the education and experience requirements to become certified (www.ncidq.org). One way to be eligible is to complete an interior design degree program. If you choose an associate's degree program, expect to complete 3-4 years of qualified work experience depending on the program you choose. A bachelor's or master's degree will entail approximately two years of full-time eligible work experience.

You have the option of enrolling in a program that's approved by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) or a program of your choice that meets NCIDQ's credit hour requirements. You may also meet the education requirements if you hold a bachelor's or master's degree in architecture from a school that's accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board or the Canadian Architectural Certification Board.

For those who prefer distance learning, some private schools offer interior design degrees online. Select schools have a hybrid option, which allows for either on-campus or online coursework completion. Access to the Internet is a requirement for online learning.

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, master's
Online Options Hybrid programs are available
Certification Requirements Graduation from a Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) approved program or meet National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) credit hour criteria
Qualified Work Experience Students must undergo work experience for a set number of hours; the number of hours increases for non-NCIDO certified programs
Certification Exam Details Codes, design application, space planning, lighting design
Common Courses Design concepts, furniture design, lighting and acoustics
Median Salary (2018)$53,370 (for interior designers)*
Job Outlook (2016-26)4% growth (for all interior designers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is Considered Qualified Work Experience?

For your work experience to be 100% qualified you must be under the direct supervision of a licensed, registered or NCIDQ-certified interior designer. Your work is also eligible if you work under an architect who offers interior design. You have the option of working outside this criterion with the hours completed counted below full value.

What Does the Exam Cover?

The NCIDQ administers the exam which leads to the NCIDQ certification. The NCIDQ offers the exam in the fall and spring. It's split into three sections which may be taken separately or together. The areas include: codes, building systems, construction standards and contract Administration; design application, project coordination and professional practice; and an interior design practicum.

Sections one and two consist of 150 multiple choice questions focused in their specific area. Section three takes a full day and requires the completion of exercises that focus on areas such as space planning, lighting design and systems integration.

What Classes Could I Take?

If you're enrolled in an undergraduate program, you would complete general education requirements along with interior design coursework. Master's programs generally focus on advanced interior design principles. Some of the interior design classes cover:

  • Design concepts
  • Furniture design
  • Building codes and standards
  • Lighting and acoustics
  • Interior design history