2008/02a: Ask Me
Q&A 12 years ago No Comments

I graduated with an Associates degree in Interior Design from Bauder Fashion College in Arlington, Texas in 1983. I am a registered interior designer in Texas and have practiced residential design for many years. I was one of those designers that was grandfathered into TBAE and not required to take the NCIDQ exam. I am really wanting to spread my wings and get involved in the Commercial / Hospitality end of design. I know I need to take an AutoCAD class and maybe a few others. Do you have any suggestions on where to start” Should I look at returning to school or maybe find a interior designer in the area of interest to learn under. Is my degree and years of experience enough to get me back in the industry”


(submitted by Melinda S.)

(For an additional answer to this question, GO HERE.)

The general answer for anyone depends on your combination of experiences in five areas:

  1. the year you graduated;
  2. your degree type (Associates or Bachelor) and area of specialty (Interior Design or other);
  3. if you graduated from a program accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation [CIDA] (formerly FIDER);
  4. if you are living in or moving to a state with Interior Design Registration Laws – which is currently 26 out of 50 states/jurisdictions;
  5. and ” if you are living in or moving to a state with Registration Laws ” your work experience may or may not have required direct supervision under a qualified professional.

For your situation, since you are in Texas, technically, you are grandfathered in and already a Registered Interior Designer [RID] with the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners [TBAE], the state”s Interior Design regulatory agency. But today, Texas now also requires a full Bachelor degree in Interior Design, especially in the commercial fields. Maybe your experiences will allow exceptions for you. It was different when you grandfathered, but today with your Associates degree and having graduated from an unaccredited program, it would not be the standard that is being used.

However, your desire to expand your skills to the commercial side can be rewarding. My best suggestion would be to start in a firm that does both residential and commercial projects so that you have immediate skills for the residential projects. You can then work into the commercial projects and increase any skills you need. At the right firm, your experiences could balance your missing education or skills. And you could also get some additional education while working. If you were to go to a full commercial firm you probably don”t have the skills and the background they require right away. Plus, you would be competing against recent grads, who offer immediate skills in AutoCAD, other computer skills (how are yours by the way”), have commercial projects in their portfolios, accredited education, etc.

Your experiences in residential design will determine how easy the transition will be to the commercial field. If you have experience with new construction and/or remodeling, drafting (AutoCAD would be best or at least hand drafting), space planning, researching and working with codes, construction documentation, complete and detailed materials specifications, project management, etc., it will be an easier transition than if your experience is mostly interior furnishings with limited construction knowledge and experience.

And, yes, going back to school is always beneficial ” especially if you were able to ultimately earn a Bachelor”s degree in Interior Design. (Refer to the list of CIDA-accredited degree programs if you are looking into that.) You would also have to verify how your previous coursework would transfer (or not). Currently in Texas, anyone who begins his or her education after September 1, 2006 is required to have a CIDA accredited Bachelor”s degree in Interior Design in order to meet the educational requirement for licensing from TBAE, which includes taking the NCIDQ Exam. A degree from one of these programs will be accepted by most state boards, and in some states, a CIDA accredited degree is required (as it now is in Texas).

Since you were grandfathered, you did not have to actually take the NCIDQ Exam. However, passing the exam is the highest mark of professionalism. Since you currently have an Associates degree, you would not currently qualify to take the NCIDQ Exam in Texas, so that is something that you should consider to add in your future if you expand on your education. It would increase your marketability to any firm, but especially any in the commercial field.

In the last several years, Interior Design registration and legislation has raised the bar and increased the qualifications in the industry. Currently in Texas, a recent graduate is required to have combination of six years of CIDA accredited education and official supervised experience under a Registered Interior Designer in order to be qualified to take the NCIDQ Exam and ultimately become registered. Each state is a bit different. In Texas, you start the process of registering to take the exam with TBAE, not NCIDQ. Refer to the TBAE website for the charts of education and experiences per time period and type of degree to take the exam.

Even if you do not qualify to take the exam with your education and/or experiences, if you possibly can I would also recommend that you take a prep class for the NCIDQ Exam, especially if you are not going to go back to school or take any other classes. The experiences of hand drafting and space planning with the commercial scale of 1/8″ (instead of the 1/4″ in residential), studying all the codes, programming, and specifications will update your skills. Your best bet will be one that has six or eight weeks of classes (typically one evening a week) and not only the weekend crash course (three days). You need time to develop your skills and need feedback and support during this. Both ASID and IIDA have these study groups.

And yes, it would be very beneficial to work under a Registered Interior Designer. For the last couple of years, it has been a requirement in Texas from TBAE for recent grads to do just that as part of their requirements before taking the NCIDQ Exam anyway. As of January 1, 2008, NCIDQ is now requiring that all new exam candidates who begin from that date forward accumulate their interior design work experience to follow the same requirements. (See the NCIDQ website link under Supervised Experience Requirement.)

I am embarrassed to have to add this, but a note of caution for each person: to verify that your employer / supervisor is actually Registered in your state. We have known of instances where designers worked the required time and some or all of it could not count because their supervisor was not actually Registered at all or their status had lapsed or been revoked. Be proactive and verify. (In Texas, check the TBAE website under the search tab by profession, name or registration number.)

An extra note of advice ” all of this being said, the actual bottom line for each individual with questions on their experiences, in a state with ID Regulations, is to verify your own specific education and work experiences with that state”s Interior Design regulatory agency to see if you qualify. Do not go to elaborate lengths of going back to school or getting work experience under the supervision of a RID without checking into that first. (In Texas, contact TBAE.)