What’s the buzz around Interior Design certifications? And what do designers really need?

I can confidently say that Interior Designers could make a full-time job out of searching for, studying for, paying for, and obtaining additional certifications to hone or level up their skillset. Not to mention all the credential maintenance that comes along with those certifications. Being an accredited Registered Interior Designer (RID) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Interior Design and Construction (LEED AP ID+C), among others, I am constantly seeking out continuing education courses to keep my certifications active. Planning and being focused are key to my success but also think about what’s next and what that path looks like. Including LEED there is NCIDQ, WELL, ALA, AAHID, NAHB, NARI, and NKBA. With all of this ‘alphabet soup,’ how do you know which certification you should target first or evaluate if (and when) you really need them? Overwhelming yes, but let’s break it down into bite-sized nuggets.

First, there are some certifications that can be gained in tandem with college coursework and/or while you are in the throes of obtaining your NCIDQ. More to come on NCIDQ in a minute. Depending on where you are in your Interior Designer career, as a new graduate, or making an upward career move, you will want to narrow down your certification options. My suggestion to better prepare you for your certification goals is to ask yourself a few questions and plan around YOU.

  • Are you a new designer or a seasoned designer looking to advance?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you most interested in?
  • Are there companies or industries that interest you?
  • If you have a targeted company/industry in mind, what are their specialties/requirements, and what certifications may set you apart from other applicants?
  • What is your five-year plan?
  • What other non-career life goals and major milestones are on the horizon?

To aid in your certification search, I came across this helpful article that describes the top 8 Interior Design certifications as a starting point. Now back to your above homework. Take those responses and match your passions and interests with your career goals. Keeping in mind that life does happen, planned or unexpected. For example, if you are expecting your first baby and moving at the same time (or even one of these major life changes), you may want to re-prioritize how many hours you have in a week to check off this goal in a realistic manner. On the other hand, many of my colleagues jumped in headfirst into wedding/baby/moving or a combo of each while obtaining one or more certifications and thrive on that pressure. So, look at your five-year plan (and goals) and lay in certifications that peak your interests throughout that timeframe, and stay focused.

Lastly, I suggest to our design interns, and all designers really, to start with the most important, highly recommended, and most respected certification within the Interior Design Industry, the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification). This certification is the industry’s recognized indicator of proficiency in interior design principles and a designer’s commitment to the profession. It is the cornerstone for becoming a certified Registered Interior Designer (RID) and is required for most state-specific certifications. This accreditation sets those who earn it apart from those who are Interior Decorators. Before taking the examination, you must meet specific educational requirements as well as a minimum number of professional practice hours. For more information on the NCIDQ exam, deadlines, and educational requirements, check out the website here.

In all, once you better define your path, you can work to achieve the best certifications for your career. Continuous learning is a wonderful attribute to have and is admirable among many. Best wishes and good luck!

We are always looking for talented candidates to join our team. If you are interested in our open design positions or internship opportunities, connect with us here or reach out to Amanda Medlen directly at 317-715-1322.

Written by Amanda Medlen