Interior design education has been delivered in South Africa since the 1970s, and this education is on a par with programs offered in most developed countries of the world. In Africa, interior design programs are offered at universities, universities of technology and at registered private colleges.
In Europe, the educational requirements differ between interior architects (considered a profession comparable to architects or structural engineers) and interior designers (considered a trade comparable to carpenters).
Traditionally in Germany, Interior Architecture has been taught at polytechnic universities or universities of applied sciences. Baccalaureate programs are normally three years (6 semesters) in length. In Germany, the adaptation of the university system to the international degrees Bachelor and Master has led to a restructuring of degree programs. Since university education has traditionally lasted at least 5 years, many Diploma programs have been transformed into consecutive graduate Master programs. Some European universities form partnerships with other universities to offer “internationally orientated Masters courses” in Interior Design, where parts of the course takes place between European partner institutions to offer comprehensive instruction in the Interior Design program, including preparation for the Interior Design qualification exam.
In the United Kingdom around fifty universities and art colleges offer 3-year degree courses and, in some cases, year-long MA courses in interior design. Many of these courses are relatively new however there are several institutions with a long proven track record in this subject area. Kingston University in London is seen by many as the “home” of interior design education in the UK and has produced many of the country’s leading interior design professionals who have shaped the nature of the profession over the last forty years (see: http://www.interiordesignkingston.org).
Canadian interior design education can be acquired through the college or university level. Unlike the programs offered in the United States, a degree is not required to become a registered professional designer. Admission to programs is based on academic marks and creative ability as demonstrated in a portfolio submission. Once accepted into a program, six years of combined educational and work experience is required before one can take the professional examination to become a registered interior designer. Therefore, if someone graduates from a three year college diploma program, they will need a minimum of three years working experience, while someone graduating from a four year degree program will only need two. Masters degree programs in Interior Design are far less common in Canada.
Canada has similar professional standards as the United States, which requires designers to take the same industry professional examination to become accredited for interior design practice. The province of Ontario is currently in the process of requiring all institutions offering interior design to be accredited.
Interior Design degree offerings
In the United States many universities and colleges offer four year baccalaureate degrees in Interior Design. Some design colleges also offer Interior Design program as stand-alone program. Masters degrees (MS, MA, MFA and recently the MID) in Interior Design are also available, although this advanced degree is less common than the baccalaureate degree. Many professionals pursue advanced degrees in related subjects, such as industrial design, fine art or education. PhD programs in interior design are increasing in number at various institutions of higher education.
Distance education in Interior Design
Educational institutions have expanded beyond the traditional, studio-based instruction in interior design by offering online degree programs for in interior design. The online degree programs, like the ones offered in traditional form, feature as comprehensive curriculum under offerings that range from 60-credit diploma courses to certificate programs, and to as many as 132 credits for a full-blown baccalaureate degree program.
Recognition of degree programs
Some graduate degree programs in interior design do not require a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Although most interior design schools in the United States retain “Interior Design” in the program name, some schools have adopted the name “Interior Architecture” instead. However, programs with “Interior Architecture” in its name may not be comparable to programs for interior design. Sometimes the distinction is drawn between programs which teach courses in structures and programs which do not. It is important to note, that a practicing professional cannot use the title of “Interior Architect,” unless the person also completes the requirements for becoming a licensed architect.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement for US Interior Designers
Postsecondary education—especially a bachelor’s degree—is recommended for entry-level positions in interior design. 24 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico register or license interior designers. Following formal training, graduates usually enter a 1-year to 3-year apprenticeship to gain experience before taking a national licensing exam or joining a professional association. Designers in States that do not require the exam may opt to take it as proof of their qualifications. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) administers the licensing exam. To be eligible to take the exam, applicants must have at least 6 years of combined education and experience in interior design, of which at least 2 years constitute postsecondary education in design. Once candidates have passed the qualifying exam, they are granted the title of Certified, Registered, or Licensed Interior Designer, depending on the state. Some states require continuing education units in order to maintain one’s licensure.
Training programs are available from professional design schools or from colleges and universities and usually take 2 to 4 years to complete. Graduates of 2-year and 3-year programs are awarded certificates or associate’s degrees in interior design and normally qualify as assistants to interior designers upon graduation. Graduates with bachelor’s degrees usually qualify for entry into a formal design apprenticeship program. Basic coursework includes computer-aided design (CAD), drawing, perspective, spatial planning, color and fabrics, furniture design, architecture, ergonomics, ethics, and psychology.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 250 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these schools award a degree in interior design. Applicants may be required to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.
The Council for Interior Design Accreditation also accredits interior design programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree. In 2005, there were 137 accredited bachelor’s degree programs in interior design in the United States, located primarily in schools of art, architecture, and home economics.
After the completion of formal training, interior designers will enter a 1-year to 3-year apprenticeship to gain experience before taking a licensing exam. Most apprentices work in design or architecture firms under the strict supervision of an experienced designer. Apprentices also may choose to gain experience working as an in-store designer in furniture stores. The NCIDQ offers the Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP), which helps entry-level interior designers gain valuable work experience by supervising work experience and offering mentoring services and workshops to new designers.
Following the apprenticeship, designers may choose to take the national licensing exam or choose to become members of a professional association. Because registration or licensure is not mandatory in all states, membership in a professional association is an indication of an interior designer’s qualifications and professional standing.
Employers increasingly prefer interior designers who are familiar with CAD software. Interior designers also increasingly need to know the basics of architecture and engineering in order to ensure that their designs meet building safety codes and ADA requirements. Other skills obtained through an education in interior design include space planning, architectural lighting, textiles, rendering, ergonomics, etc.
In addition to possessing technical knowledge, interior designers must be creative, imaginative, and persistent and must be able to communicate their ideas in writing, visually, and verbally. Because tastes in style can change quickly, designers need to be well read, open to new ideas and influences, and quick to react to changing trends. Problem-solving skills and the ability to work independently and under pressure are important traits. People in this field need self-discipline to start projects on their own, to budget their time, and to meet deadlines and production schedules. Good business sense and sales ability also are important, especially for those who freelance or run their own business.
Beginning interior designers receive on-the-job training and normally need 1 to 3 years of training before they can advance to higher level positions. Experienced designers in large firms may advance to chief designer, design department head, or some other supervisory position. Some experienced designers open their own firms or decide to specialize in one aspect of interior design. Other designers leave the occupation to become teachers in schools of design or in colleges and universities. Many faculty members continue to consult privately or operate small design studios to complement their classroom activities. (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos293.htm)