Interior design is a fast-paced field that requires artistic and technical skills to make spaces both beautiful and functional. Learning these skills requires a comprehensive education program aimed at familiarizing students with the approaches and tools needed to be an in-demand interior designer. In many states in the US, being a professional interior designer requires special licensure along with other credentials including a college degree. Use this detailed guide to better understand what those credentials are and how to obtain your license.
How to become an interior designer
The foundation of your interior design career starts with your education. Most designers have a traditional 2- or 4-year college degree. Degree programs should be led by expert designers that teach the basics of design as well as higher-level technical skills. Those who complete a college program will be versed in the principles, skills, and technology required to operate in the field as a Certified Interior Designer (CID) or interior design assistant. Programs should aim to develop well-rounded professionals ready to pass the licensure exam and thrive in the areas of commercial or residential design.
While alternatives are becoming available, it is still very common for graduates to receive their degrees from a formal 2- or 4-year program. Interior design is a blend of academic, technical, and hands-on skills that are difficult to learn outside a brick-and-mortar classroom. Villa College interior design students have access to a Design Resource Room, an Art Shop, and computer studios with access to professional design programs. These dedicated facilities provide the environment and tools designers need to hone their craft and become well-rounded professionals.
Interior design programs offer courses in the following electives to help meet licensure goals and provide the foundation necessary to be a leader in the industry. Courses provide the mix of creative and technical skills needed to bring a space from its design concept to its unveiling to its ongoing use by occupants and residents.
- Drafting and presentation techniques
- Principles of space planning and design
- Furniture, finishes, and equipment
- Building codes
- Interior design history
- Color theory and use
The total number of credit hours you’ll need in each of these areas depends on your career goals. Interior design assistants and fully-licensed professionals have different requirements.
To be a fully-licensed or assistant interior designer, your academic program should incorporate a work experience component. Quality interior design programs include these experiences in accordance with the state’s licensing requirements. At Villa, these can be a research, service, or seminar-related enrichment experience under the supervision of faculty.
Becoming a Certified Interior Designer
The structure of these programs also reflects the most up-to-date standards from Villa Maria’s home state of New York. Students must have a minimum of two years of college-level design education and complete a baccalaureate degree in interior design. Villa’s B.F.A. satisfies this requirement. Additional requirements are set by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). Among them are curriculum standards. These are met by the Villa Maria College program.
The state of New York also grants licensure based on the results of a standardized exam called the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). It contains three sections and each must be passed to earn licensure. The exam is not design-software specific but will require you to know the general techniques involved in using CAD software.
Becoming a Interior Design Assistant
In some states, professionals can practice as interior design assistants after completing a two-year interior design education program. Some schools are adapting their programs to serve these young professionals. For instance, Villa’s Associate in Applied Science degree satisfies this requirement for interior design assistants. These professionals will learn many of the same drawing, drafting, and computer rendering skills required to work in the field.
Supervised professional experience qualification
To be a fully licensed interior designer, you need experience in the field. Professionals must typically earn a set number of hours working under the supervision of an advanced professional. In the state of New York, these professionals can be:
- A fully-liscensed interior designer
- A professional engineer
- A professional architect
A director, sponsor, or supervisor-level interior designer approves these hours, which are put towards the hours needed for New York State licensure. Quality interior design programs will help connect you to the supervised internships or volunteering experiences necessary to meet this requirement.
Additional credentials and certifications
Licensed interior designers can advance their skills and credentials further with additional certifications and continuing education. Earning these can expand your design expertise and boost your career by complimenting your NCIDQ licensure. Most are available through professional organizations and trade associations within the design industry. Eligibility for additional certifications varies but always requires full licensure.