For the sake of brevity and your patience I am going to combine some steps here;
We must all understand that certification is NOT the same as a license.
We must recognize that certification is a means, or a tool, to self-regulate the profession (see point one above) not solely a means to a license.
You may have noticed my previous post regarding use of the terms certified and licensed. In case you missed it here is the gist;
If you attended an educational program that granted you a certificate upon completion that does NOT mean you are “certified” interior designer.
If you passed the NCIDQ Examination- that does NOT mean you are a “licensed” interior designer.
If you received an interior architecture degree from a CIDA accredited school- that does NOT mean you are an “interior architect”
Unfortunately our profession is rife with people who do not understand the above title/label/credential nuances as well as those who know the difference but choose to ignore the legal and ethical ramifications. While this may work for the individual who may be promoting their personal brand, or academic programs that seek a sexier title, it certainly does nothing to help clarify the public’s understanding and perception of our conflicted profession.
So what can the profession of code regulated interior design do to sort this out and bring clarity to our mission? Well we can all start by being informed and being honest. And those who misunderstand or ignore the realities of such claims need to be called out. We can do this on an individual basis by helping the individual understand the ethical or legal conflicts that they are promoting. We can also report these individuals if their claims cross professional organization rules or state/territory laws. This is one of the tenets of self-regulating our profession.
If those of us who have earned our titles and credentials, by following the rules and ethical standards set forth by the profession and regulatory agencies, do not stand up to those who make false claims, then we deserve the lack of respect and societal misconception of our value to society which limits our ability to practice as peers with, or independent of, our allied licensed design professions.
I know that is a long run on sentence but hopefully you get my point.
Again, to be clearly confusing, in the U.S. the title “Interior Designer” is protected by the 1st amendment. Canada can regulate the use of the title. It is when you start to drill down on titles such as “Certified Interior Designer” or “Licensed Interior Designer” or “Interior Architect” that many of us cross ethical/legal boundaries.
For those of you who are still here and would like a bit more clarity on this please read on.
INTERIOR DESIGN CERTIFICATION
First you need to understand that a earning a certificate through some sort of program does not necessarily mean one is “certified”. To claim you are “certified” generally requires passage of a specialty exam (other than administered by the same program) that vets a person’s knowledge and skill set in a particular occupation, or practice area, among other requirements. More on that here http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/programdifferences
Then we need to understand what a designer needs to legitimately claim that they are a “certified” interior designer. This is where the title/label of “certified” gets really confusing and ultimately abused.
We can boil it down to two levels of certification. Private and publicly regulated.
Essentially there are two private entities that certify interior designers. These entities are also recognized by state regulations where the practice of, or title thereof, is legally recognized- which at this point is not necessarily in all jurisdictions. What a mess…..anyway the National Council for Interior Design Qualification examination provides a certificate to all who take and pass their exam. This certificate is recognized as the standard baseline of professional status in both the U.S. and Canada and does allow one to technically claim that they are “certified”. And then there is California. Ah yes the island nation off the coast of Nevada has its own certification examination, the IDEX, which is administered by the California Council for Interior Design Certification. This certificate allows you to become a Certified Interior Designer in California and California only.
There are several other exam based certificates for Interior Designers that may technically meet the letter of “certification” and allow one to claim they are “certified” but they are strictly private certificates with limited professional gravitas. However, they are technically certificates. The RIDQC and the CQRID being two such certification programs. There are also several specialization exams that interior designers can take to claim they are certified health care interior designers or aging in place specialists but these are not considered baseline certifications for the general profession of interior design.
Publicly there are many states and territories in North America that have laws in place that allow qualified interior designers (typically NCIDQ certified) to legally claim the title state “certified” interior designer.
I could go on about certificates and certification as well as the acronyms/credentials thereof (don’t get me started on the CID credential) but suffice it to say that if you are skeptical of a particular designers claim that they are in fact “certified” I encourage you to validate their claims by using the following resources;
For those claiming to be NCIDQ certified or state certified Most states and territories, where interior design is regulated (except California) one must be NCIDQ certified to obtain state certification. You can also check your local state/territory professional boards.
Now if you come across an individual that claims to be a “certified” interior designer you can, and should, press them to explain how they are so “certified”. You may not have any legal recourse to prohibit them from such a claim but there are private resources that can help you sort out such ethical conflicts.
INTERIOR DESIGN LICENSURE
There are many who believe that being certified also means by default that they are licensed. This is unequivocally false and should not go unquestioned. Currently only about 50% of U.S. states and most Provinces/Territories, via regulatory boards, are the only entities that can grant licenses for the practice of interior design. If you come across a designer that claims they are licensed to practice in your state, or any other for that matter, you should check with your state professional board. Unfortunately not all states regulate, or license, interior designers so it is incumbent on the consumer (or peer professional) to sort out such claims in their own jurisdiction. In Kansas for instance one can claim that they are a licensed interior designer but since there is no such law in place there is no legal recourse. I am sure if you had the funds a lawyer would be glad to pursue a civil level law suit. However, to claim “licensed” status in an unregulated state should be an alarm to any consumer to cease a business relationship.
In order for an interior designer to claim that they are an interior architect they must be a registered architect in their home state. You can check this status with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards or your state board. In Canada the use of the term/title interior architecture may be less regulated but again if one is skeptical of an interior designer claiming to be an interior architect you should check with your provincial/territory boards.
For those academic programs that have adopted the title “interior architecture” but are only CIDA accredited and not NAAB accredited, which would allow their graduates to legally claim the title and practice as an “interior architect”, we should demand that they become more transparent with their program descriptions.
One good model in this regard is the newly created Interior Architecture and Design program at the University of Kansas which clearly explains that graduates of their 4 year undergraduate IA program need to go on to their 2 year masters program in order to earn a degree that will allow them to sit for the Architecture Registration Examination Which will ultimately allow their graduates to legally claim the title “Interior Architect”.
To wrap this up I want to emphasize this aspect of self-regulation. We have to police ourselves and hold each other accountable. We cannot rely on the state (or province) to do this for us. Yes they can help but policing our profession is not their main purpose.
This leads me to my next mash-up of steps to advance the profession;
Licensure is a right to work issue based on proven abilities to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and NOT a means to validate the profession.
Licensure is a political and legal quagmire that we are not prepared yet…to realize substantive success.