Home > Entrepreneurship, Life, MBA > The NCIDQ: What it is and How to Prepare

The NCIDQ: What it is and How to Prepare

When aspiring interior designers begin exploring education programs, one thing that they may notice is that most programs refer to the NCIDQ, or National Council for Interior Design Qualification, exam. Most programs tout the fact that their coursework is geared toward successfully passing the exam – but many prospective students aren’t exactly sure what the exam is, or what it means for their careers.

Essentially, the NCIDQ is the objective standard by which interior designers can prove that they have the required knowledge and experience. However, it’s not a test of whether a designer has the taste or ability to create an attractive room. Instead, the NCIDQ is devoted entirely to ensuring that designers know what needs to be done to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the people using and living in the spaces they design.

Qualifying for the Exam

Like many examinations that lead to a credential, the NCIDQ exam is limited to those who meet the requirements for education and experience in the field, who can demonstrate their knowledge of the subject area.

There are six paths to meeting the eligibility requirements for the NCIDQ exams, each with varying combinations of education and experience. For example, those who hold four-year degrees from Council of Interior Design-accredited interior design schools can qualify for the exam after 3,520 hours, or about two years of full-time paid work experience. Those who hold degrees from non-CIDA accredited schools, or hold degrees in other fields, can also qualify with more work experience and additional approved coursework.

It’s important to note that the work experience requirements are very specific. For example, if you received academic credit for the experience, such as through an internship, then those hours cannot count toward meeting the testing qualifications. However, it is possible to start fulfilling the work experience hours while you are still in school, once you have completed at least 96 hours of formal design training. In addition, you can only receive 100 percent credit for the hours you’ve worked if your supervisor is NCIDQ-certified. If your supervisor holds other credentials – or none at all – the experience is then evaluated and rate accordingly.

You will need to provide proof of both your education and work experience when you apply for the exam; however, the exam board doesn’t review portfolios, client lists or other evidence to prove your eligibility, or make exceptions to the rules.

The Exam

Once you qualify, the NCQDQ exam itself is a comprehensive exam covering several subject areas. It’s not a test of your knowledge of facts, but instead, how you would apply your knowledge to real life situations. It’s divided into three sections.

  • The first section covers your knowledge and skill in codes, building systems, construction standards and contracts.
  • The second section tests your knowledge of design application, practices and project coordination.
  • Finally, the third section is more practice-based; you’ll receive a series of design challenges in several areas, including lighting, space planning and restroom design, and need to come up with solutions that follow the established guidelines.

The NCIDQ exam takes place over two days and is broken into four sections that last four hours each. It’s offered twice a year, usually in a major city. You’ll need to apply to take the exam at least four months in advance.

Why Take the NCIDQ?

In some states, the NCIDQ designation is actually a requirement for anyone who wants to work as a licensed interior designer in that state. Not all states license interior design professionals, but for those that do, the NCIDQ is the standard for determining license eligibility.

In addition, holding this credential indicates to potential employers and clients that you have at least a basic understanding and competency of interior design principles. You can have all the talent in the world when it comes to creating attractive spaces, but if it is not safe or healthy for inhabitants, then the design could be considered unsuccessful.

While the requirements are stringent, and the exam itself challenging, earning the NCIDQ credential is a worthwhile endeavor. It demonstrated your commitment to the field of interior design, and helps you earn more assignments, and eventually, more money. Look for an interior design college that will prepare you for this important exam and you’ll be on your way to a successful career from the start.

Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons

Paula Willette is an NCIDQ-certified interior designer. She works for a large architectural firm, designing interior spaces for office buildings. She enjoys creating hip, functional and sleek spaces that inspire people and make them happy to come to work. 

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Categories: Entrepreneurship, Life, MBA
  1. Amanda
    October 17, 2012 at 12:00 am | #1

    As someone studying to be an interior designer, I’m going to have to take this test soon. Not neccessarily looking forward to it, but I mean, whatever helps me make my endgoal.

    Like this

  2. Kendrick
    October 24, 2012 at 6:00 am | #2

    I’m really glad that I decided against being an interior designer, I had been thinking about it in school. No exam for me! And no job, either…

    Like this

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  1. December 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm | #1

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