The Importance of Attending an Accredited Interior Design Program

There are hundreds of interior design programs offered at colleges, specialty schools, and online programs. With such a wide array of available programs, choosing the right school can seem overwhelming. For most students, the most important factor is convenience - the school must be in a location that is easy to get to, with a schedule that fits the student's lifestyle. Beyond those basic requirements, the most important factor to look at is the school's accreditations for both general education and interior design.

In the United States, general accreditation is offered to colleges and universities by two national organizations, the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. These organizations are broken down into regional agencies. There are also some specialty accrediting organizations, like the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) that are recognized by the two national organizations. The two national organizations provide lists of legitimate accrediting organizations on their websites.

General educational accreditation is important. Degrees earned at a college that is accredited by one of the regional organizations are recognized by the other agencies. Accreditation ensures that students are eligible for federal student loans or grants and employer based tuition assistance. Students who attend accredited programs are able to transfer credits from one school to another. Most importantly, accreditation ensures that the school provides the same educational results, admissions, counseling, placement, and other services that are provided by recognized colleges.

It's also crucial to look for specialty accreditation for interior design programs. While schools without this accreditation may offer a good introduction to interior design, an accredited interior design program can provide a more comprehensive interior design foundation.

In the United States and Canada interior design programs have the opportunity to receive accreditation by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, a nonprofit organization that develops guidelines for interior design education. The Council reviews and updates accreditation standards annually. Council members include designer, educators, and members of the public who work with interior designers.

Applying for accreditation is voluntary. To apply, the schools submit a self study of their programs and faculty. Next, a team of experts visits the school and performs an extensive review of program offerings and staff credentials. Accreditation is awarded to schools that meet the Council's requirements.

The accreditation process is a detailed one that is paid for by the school. A school must make a significant investment of time and money to go through the accreditation process. This demonstrates the school's commitment to investing in its students' future, providing quality education, and meeting industry standards.

Attending an accredited school is important to future certification and employment. In many states, to be licensed, a designer must sit for a certification exam by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification. Accredited schools provide the foundation to take these exams and guarantee that students study the coursework necessary to take licensing exams after graduation.

Accredited schools provide the technical training necessary for a successful career in interior design. Many students are attracted to the field of interior design because of their interest in colors, fabrics, and furniture arrangement. However, interior design is much more than just decorating. Designers are responsible for many technical aspects. They have to make structural decisions like how high ceilings should be and where to place walls, windows, doors, closets, and stairs. They are also responsible for overseeing the installation of electricity, lighting, and HVAC units, the knocking down and rearranging of walls, and other structural tasks. Most of these functions are regulated and inspected by state and local governments. Failing to comply with local codes and safe practices could cause unsafe conditions and failed inspections. Attending an accredited school ensures that designers are educated in these aspects and up to the challenge of providing safe and structurally sound designs.

Accreditation also ensures that the technology, staff, and educational resources provided by the interior design program are up to date. Since accredited schools are reviewed annually, they must keep up both technical aspects and industry trends in interior design to keep their status.

All these factors demonstrate the importance of attending an accredited interior design program. It's the first step a student must take for future employment opportunities and professional growth.

by Michelle Parker

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