Raising Your Bar

May 1, 2004
Lewis Goetz, FIIDA, FAIA

Why the NCIDQ exam is a necessary part of a designer's professional development.

FORUM IIDAIt constantly surprises me that so few graduates of design schools complete their initial design education by taking the NCIDQ exam. Although the exam is really only to test for minimum competency of a design education, it is an illustration to you as a designer and the outside world that you have attained that level of competency. Designers of course should never stop learning unless they intend to stagnate in their careers. Continuing education is an integral part of furthering one's knowledge in the profession—and at some point in your career, you may even become one of those who educate, having a thorough understanding of a particular area of expertise.But let me go back to my first statement about those not taking the NCIDQ exam. Why is it that designers don't feel it necessary to show themselves or others that they have a basic level of competency? Maybe it's because they don't want to take the time to study once they arrive in the workplace. Maybe it costs too much, or maybe they are afraid of being embarrassed if they fail, or worse they just don't see the value in the examination. The answer probably lies in all of these thoughts. As a profession, we need to make this element of education a basic, instinctive and necessary part of a designer's process of professional development. Imagine a lawyer not taking the Bar exam. It's not an option unless you're not planning on working in a law firm or expecting to elevate yourself within that firm. Most law firms require their graduates to take the Bar exam at the earliest time they are qualified to take it. Failure may cost his or her job.I believe as a profession we must make the NCIDQ examination a very basic part of the professional development process if we are to be taken seriously and if we are to raise the perception and standard of the profession and those who practice it. Educators must encourage students to take the exam as a continuation of their initial education and professional development. Employers must encourage or even demand that their designers pass the NCIDQ as a means of determining professional elevation within a firm and a minimum level of competency to support client needs. I challenge every firm owner to make it a requirement for their designers to take the NCIDQ exam. The government, in their procurement process, often requires interior designer credentials to determine qualifications for interior design tasks. Why would we in our own professional sector demand less? Architectural registration boards at the state levels require that anyone who calls themselves an "architect" must have passed the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) exam and be registered in that jurisdiction. It's the law. We as a profession may not have title or registration acts in all states, but we do have an examination that has been widely accepted as the examination of our profession. We at least need to show our conviction and support of our profession by accepting this exam and its importance in measuring minimum competency in our profession. If we do not accept that responsibility, our profession will be doomed and will not attain the level or stature that we all believe is due. How can we make others believe that interior design can only effectively be practiced by those individuals that are properly educated and trained unless there is some mechanism for testing those skills and knowledge? Otherwise anyone would be able to be an interior designer, and we know that's not true.Those of us who are trained and educated in the design professions understand this distinction and understand the need for testing. I want to be distinguished from those who don't have the credentials. I want it to be known that I have a recognized level of knowledge and competency in my field of practice. I want to feel proud that I have completed my initial education and passed an exam that measures that competency. I want you to feel the same when you pass the NCIDQ exam.

IIDA president Lewis J. Goetz, FIIDA, FAIA, is founding principal and CEO of Group Goetz Architects, Washington, DC. IIDA is headquartered in space 13-122 at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL, and can be reached at (888) 799-IIDA;

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