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How to Get an Interior Design License

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In addition to educational training, before pursuing the field, students should take notes on how to get an interior design license to ensure the right course of action from the beginning. Licensure is a requirement for interior designers, in many U.S. states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Obtaining licensure/certification/registration (as it is called different things depending on the locale), can be a lengthy process.

  1. If possible, determine where you will be practicing interior design and contact the local state’s office regarding their regulations for licensing, certification or registration.
  2. Select a program at an accredited college. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) is a good place to start. While there are associate, bachelor and master level coursework, the level of education and type of degree program will directly impact the amount of work experience required before sitting for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification exam.
  3. In all cases but one, education and professional work experience is a six year process. Two or three years of education with one year of concurrent education, and two years of work experience after graduation, or three or four years of work experience after successful completion of an associates program. However, if a student obtains a bachelors or masters from an architecture program accredited by the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB), it is required that an additional 5,280 hours, or three years of qualified work experience after education be obtained.
  4. The Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP) is a program administered by the NCIDQ to help students document and monitor their work experience to ensure that certification requirements are met. The IDEP helps students bridge the gap while transitioning from student to professional interior designer. The beauty of this program is that upon completion the student has completed all work requirements, has had assistance preparing for the exam, and has assembled a solid network of contacts to help his/her interior design career.
  5. The student can pursue their own professional work experience, or they can join the IDEP. If a student opts to gain experience on their own, they should try to work directly under a NCIDQ certified boss. This way they will earn 100% of the work hours to count toward their requirements. However, if a direct boss/employer/supervisor is not NCIDQ certified, a student’s hours will accrue at a lower percentage.
  6. The interior design certification exam is administered by the NCIDQ. The exam is continually updated to reflect the current knowledge base, but is specifically geared towards those factors which affect the life safety, public health and welfare. The exam is administered twice a year, over two days and has six sections. The fees for the exams are $250 for Section 1- Codes, Building Systems and Construction Standards consisting of 150 multiple choice questions, $250 for Section 2 – Design Application, Project Coordination and Professional Practice consisting of 150 multiple choice questions, and $385 for Section 3 – Interior Design Practicum consisting of seven design exercises. However, if all three sections are taken, the rate is $835.
  7. Students are required to apply to take the certification exam. If they have met all requirements, the NCIDQ notifies them to register for the exam online.
  8. If the student passes all three sections, the NCIDQ notifies the student’s state of their successful completion. The student should follow-up with their individual state to determine if any additional steps are required, and what their official designation can be – licensed interior design, registered interior designer, etc.
  9. Interior designers must complete continuing education classes in order to maintain their certification through the NCIDQ.

Interior design students should do their homework to determine how to get an interior design license, as certification/licensure is required in many states throughout the U.S. It’s quite useful to know in which order steps should be taken to successfully complete a course of study along with the professional experience requirements.

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