The Debate Goes On – FIDER Accreditation
Education 19 years ago No Comments

Consider a nerve touched. For three months we have encouraged readers’ comments concerning the following issue: Regarding the way that some states are writing / have written their Interior Design legislation Acts (Title and/or Practice), one must have graduated from a FIDER accredited program in order to become licensed in that state. Where does that leave non-FIDER accredited graduates, and should this be considered fair” Though we had planned on tabling the discussion for a couple of months, the diversity of responses has spurred us to publish them now. So peruse & ponder, digest & formulate, and – by all means – respond if you feel so inclined…

[Note: If you have not already, we recommend that you first read the first three installments – April 2005, May 2005, and June 2005 – in chronological order. The comments will make much more sense. K eep the opinions coming – we will hang on to them and publish them in the coming months. Please send your comments to PLiNTH & CHiNTZ by emailing us: Debate is a Good Thing.]

Email from: JANICE DAVIS
subject: FIDER discussion……

I am writing this from the point-of-view from a prospective student. I am in agreement with just about everyone that the interior design profession has to have standards, but as some have mentioned here, how FIDER wants to go about this causes me some concern.

First, as a prospective non-traditional student, I already have an undergraduate degree. I also have major financial obligations, such as a mortgage and student loans from said previous undergraduate degree. I also will turn 40 soon. I mention this because I am not at the twilight of my youth! This is a career change for me, and I feel my only options are to look at distance education or community college.

The two distance programs I am considering are Limperts Academy and Rhodec. The community college in my area is considering an expansion of their program from a two-year to a three-year program.

Is FIDER going to rescind their decision on accrediting two-year programs if they become a three-year program” And, if FIDER is considering this change, why are Rhodec and Limperts Academy recognized by ASID, IIDA and NCIDQ as good enough to be associated with these distance programs”

Maybe it’s turning 40, but I am little cynical. I do understand that there is competition from non-traditional designers that are entering the interior design field such as architects, contractors, interior re-designers and "decorators" (i.e. faux painters, wallpaper hangers, upholsters, etc.), but I also think there might just be a little jealousy involved here as well.

Look at people like Vicente Wolf or Jeffrey Bilhuber. These are two men who did not receive a design degree and they are two of America ‘s premiere designers. Or, on Trading Spaces, there were only three people who had received any interior design related education. I think I would be a little steamed too if I had put in the time and effort that many licensed designers have and not be taken seriously.

I know the entertainment business has not treated the interior design industry as seriously as it needs to, but as a few have mentioned here, doesn’t the difficult nature of the NCIDQ exam weed out the wannabe interior designers” There has to be a better way to figure out a solution for this problem.

I have thought long and hard about this career change. This is my dream and my goal. I did not enter into wanting to become an interior designer on a whim. I truly believe this is my calling. To have an organization decide that I am (or any other person in this situation) not talented enough based on my education is ludicrous! I am willing to get the required education that my wallet will allow me to have, but I don’t believe I or others should be penalized for not attending a FIDER accredited school. I believe that I (and others) am just as talented and motivated as those who do and will attend FIDER accredited schools.

FIDER needs to check out the work that Rhodec, Limperts Academy and community college students are doing before they enforce this idea.

Janice Davis
Soon-to-be ID student

subject: numbers!

FIDER has added to their standards that students “should” be able to demonstrate the ability to apply the metric system to design work. Maybe this is a step toward bringing Design into the fold of other disciplines who knew that metric was the way to go along time ago! (It is under Standard 5) Geesh, what took so long”

Sheree Shold

Email from: MIKE DUDEK
subject: FIDER Accreditation Requirement

I would like to respond to some comments [see LEARN, BABY, LEARNJune 2005] made in response to my opinion [see LEARN, BABY, LEARNMay 2005] regarding the FIDER/NCIDQ accreditation issue. I think we’ve uncovered several "hot buttons" that might serve as topics for other SPOTLIGHT discussions.

First, thanks to PLiNTH & CHiNTZ for giving us this forum. The mainstream pulp design periodicals won’t even try (SPOTLIGHT topic #1). Second, my comments were made out of frustration caused by this profession’s identity crisis which I maintain is a "crisis" (SPOTLIGHT topic #2). Third, I knew my position would cause some response, and I appreciate the tactful and thoughtful comments. Thanks to Sheree Schold for her comments, but she also posed several questions that I feel compelled to answer.

1. Do we really know that students who come from non-FIDER accredited programs are not competent or qualified to pass our accepted certification exam” According to ASID, IIDA, IDEC & IDC, they are not. All of those organizations amazingly agree that FIDER is doing a good job at setting standards and monitoring them. Although to be fair there are graduates of FIDER accredited programs, that while qualified by default, clearly are not competent to pass the "accepted certification exam". That is where we hope the exam itself sorts out the incompetent. FYI: I failed the NCIDQ on my first attempt.

2. Do we know that other Design program accrediting bodies do not educate students in a way that would prepare them for competent professional practice as designers” Again, at this point, ASID, IIDA, IDEC & IDC support FIDER as the only accrediting body to provide a proper interior design education. If someone creates a better model and gets all of those disparate organizations to agree that it is in fact better than FIDER, I bet they would embrace it. Don’t hold your breath for that to happen.

3. FIDER has established great Standards, yes, but does this mean they are the only group who cares about the profession and its students enough to create quality educational goals and hire good teachers” Is FIDER the only group capable of setting standards for such a varied profession” Do we really want one group to do this when our profession is so creative and diverse anyway” Yes to all the above EXCEPT I would disagree that this is a diverse profession. (SPOTLIGHT topic #3)

4. Please, tell me why we need both of these and why passing the exam shouldn’t suffice” Tell me how it has been determined that FIDER is better than other Design Accreditation bodies such as the one that accredits Parsons School of Design, at educating designers” Ask ASID, IIDA, IDC & IDEC. They seem to agree on this one.

5. Why is FIDER needed to decide if I am competent to practice when they accredit institutions not individuals” Trust me. In this regard it is the individuals that make the institutions.

6. I agree that States have an easier job of licensing individuals when they know their program met high quality standards, but should FIDER be the only way to do this” We have got to start somewhere…. and all of the above organizations miraculously agree that the current model works.

I am tired of people assuming I am capable of nothing more than selecting draperies and tassels for hassocks. We have got to get serious about presenting ourselves as competent professionals who are qualified by education (FIDER) and training (NCIDQ) to create living, socializing and working environments that are safe, sustainable, spatially appropriate and add value to peoples lives and livelihoods.

Mike Dudek

subject: FIDER

A quality education in interior design – Essential. Regulating the profession to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public – Absolutely. The quintessential NCIDQ exam – (sorry but I can’t resist this:) Priceless!

FIDER or ‘Equivalent’ and who decides” What is it and how is it evaluated”

It’s a potential myth and there will be no official equivalent in my opinion. I doubt it was the board of directors of FIDER that went to each U.S. state or Canadian province and requested they be the only authority by which to base licensing applications. Rather I believe it’s the licensing boards that decided this is the obvious paradigm and why look any further. When I contacted the non-FIDER schools for their reaction to this I expected more response than I received, which was nothing! I got more from the state licensing boards though when asked what the FIDER equivalent would be exactly. Well, most require it to be based on or in-line with FIDER Standards, so for a school to satisfy the board they must go through the same preparation and process that a site visit from FIDER would require to prove their worth, yet obviously there’d be no official accreditation at the end of the day or any guarantee that it would be accepted by the board, so the school may as well have restructured their ID curriculum and sought FIDER accreditation in the first place.

It’s interesting and worth knowing that FIDER is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) the very same council that recognizes other accrediting commissions including the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) which accredits Rhodec International. So should we accept that for many states FIDER will be considered the only acceptable measure of a designer’s education” Shouldn’t it be the passage of the NCIDQ exam – or equivalent”!

Here’s what NCIDQ state on their website: Can I take the exam even if I don’t have a FIDER degree” “NCIDQ does not require a degree from a FIDER-accredited program in order to satisfy our education requirements. However, if you plan to work in a regulated jurisdiction, you should check your board’s requirements; the board may have an education requirement that differs from NCIDQ’s”

Where do students and graduates of non-FIDER schools turn” Ask your department head or school president what they are doing to protect the recognition and validity of your education. Depending on the school’s resources they should be doing something for you. Regardless of what steps the school is taking, my advice is to contact your local state board to find out exactly how this affects you and to what extent. If you don’t mind not using the title Registered or Certified Interior Designer and limiting yourself to residential design (check carefully if your local state has a practice act in place first) then you probably won’t be affected too much. Some states with pending legislation will have a grandfather clause which will allow practicing designers who meet the requisite hours of work experience with a formal interior design education to sit part of the NCIDQ exam. If passed they will be considered qualified for licensing purposes.

If your state isn’t yet regulated then you still have the opportunity to get involved and inform the decision-makers of the alternatives available. They may not have researched these because they can save time and money by sticking with a brand they’ve already heard of.

It’s your education and ultimately your career that will be affected, so speak up loud enough to be heard.

Susi Santorelli
Rhodec International
Director of US & Canadian Affairs
IDEC, IFDA, Industry Member IIDA
Rhodec/ASID Student Chapter Faculty Advisor

P.S. In reference to a contribution in a previous article on this subject, I’d like to state that in fairness to and defense of PCDI, they do not claim to teach interior design but rather interior decorating. To the best of my knowledge they do not mislead consumers with claims of teaching interior design, later advising them on how to find work as an interior decorator, which is a tactic some businesses (and I stress businesses rather than educational organizations) employ to attract students with shameless chicanery.