As a full-time interior design practitioner and a part-time interior design educator, I thought I knew all the benefits of obtaining and maintaining an NCIDQ Certificate. But when I recently engaged a few full-time educators in discussions about NCIDQ credentials, I was surprised by what they had to say.
I had always looked at passing the NCIDQ Examination as the logical last step in my "education + experience + examination" three-step professional track. Living and working in a nonregulated jurisdiction, I see the NCIDQ Certificate as the ultimate defining credential until my state achieves legislation. But the insights my teaching colleagues shared shows how great the impact of the NCIDQ credential is, especially for full-time and adjunct educators.
The biggest revelation was how important a boost the NCIDQ Certificate was to the status of the educators I spoke with, many of whom are, or were, program directors at FIDER-accredited programs. It became apparent that the NCIDQ credential made a difference—whether it was when they undertook discussions with their institutions about FIDER (Foundation for Interior Design Education Research) accreditation, in tenure negotiations, when talking about furthering the department's standing both within and outside their school, and especially, as one put it, "in wresting from the administration things that my program must have in order to financially survive in the [non-academic] real world."
One colleague expressed dismay with her teaching peers who have not undergone the NCIDQ process, and further asked (rhetorically) how these peers could, in all good conscience, support the profession, uphold FIDER accreditation and promote NCIDQ, especially to their students, without holding the credential themselves. I am in full agreement that all our interior design educators should achieve what we ask our future practitioners (aka students) to do.
The majority of professionals, including doctors, architects, lawyers and accountants, agree on the importance of education, experience and examination to protect the health, life safety and welfare of the public. Interior design instructors should consider teaching interior design—at all levels—a serious endeavor and therefore achieve the only universal proof of minimum competency the profession has by successfully passing the NCIDQ Examination and maintaining an active NCIDQ Certificate.
Another unexpected response from the educators was how many interior design programs, whether in legislated jurisdictions or not, are requiring all full-time (and encouraging part-time) professors to hold an active NCIDQ Certificate. One program is even holding to the (non-NCIDQ-mandated) standard that advanced studios must be taught by instructors holding the NCIDQ credential. (Note, however, that a FIDER Professional Standard is that "a majority of faculty members with interior design studio supervision have passed the complete NCIDQ exam.") That means that some long-time faculty must pass the NCIDQ Examination as a requirement for continued employment. A number of school administrations help defray the costs associated with the examination by paying for any study course(s), thus encouraging participation by instructors. (See sidebar for incentives NCIDQ provides to Interior Design Educators Council members in the examination process.)
I was also pleased, but not shocked, to learn that having NCIDQ Certificate holders on the faculty helped directors achieve and maintain FIDER accreditation for their institutions. And in some cases, having an NCIDQ Certificate was the deciding factor for the administration in choosing my colleagues to become the program director for that particular FIDERaccredited program. One educator told me that holding the NCIDQ Certificate was more important to her continued employment with her school than publishing research in journals.
All of these positive comments about the impact of NCIDQ makes me want to throw open the windows and yell, "Isn't this incentive enough to acquire the NCIDQ Certificate?!"
With this new-found knowledge of how significant an NCIDQ Certificate is when being considered for employment as an interior design educator; at how imperative the NCIDQ Certificate is to reaching advanced status within the institution itself; at how crucial an NCIDQ Certificate is in discussions about all sorts of academic resources to help make interior design programs viable and vital assets to schools and universities; and at how important an NCIDQ credentialed instructor is in obtaining and maintaining FIDER accreditation; I cannot see any reason why an educator would choose not to take the examination.
Let's face the facts: no matter how we choose to be involved with the practice of interior design—as a full-time practitioner, fulltime educator, or a combination of both—we all are teachers in some form or fashion. Whether we choose to educate young individuals on the basic skill and knowledge sets of the profession, or we choose to educate clients on specifics only a seasoned, competent interior designer can offer; whether we work in a legislated jurisdiction, or we are involved with the efforts for legal recognition by working to pass legislation; we must realize that an NCIDQ Certificate is the ultimate definer of a capable, knowledgeable, competent interior designer. As legislation reaches more and more of our professionals, obtaining and maintaining an NCIDQ Certificate is the obligation we all must undertake.
There is no time like the present to prove to yourself, your students, peers and colleagues that you take pride in your chosen profession. Practice what you preach; apply and sit for the NCIDQ Examination now. Besides taking pleasure in successfully obtaining the NCIDQ Certificate, take pride in becoming one of the ever-increasing numbers of practitioners throughout Canada and the United States who have taken a stand for what the profession is all about: protecting the health, life safety and welfare of the public.
David D. Stone is an NCIDQ Certificate holder and a member of the NCIDQ Board of Directors. Stone is also a Senior Associate in the Interior Design department of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates in Cambridge, MA., a past IIDA New England chapter President and VP of Government and Regulatory Affairs and is active in the efforts of the Massachusetts Interior Design Coalition (MIDC) in seeking practice act legislation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Stone has also participated in the education process by helping instruct students at institutions including The Rhode Island School of Design, The Boston Architectural Center and The New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University. More information on the NCIDQ Examination is available at www.ncidq.org.