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What's the difference between a designer and a decorator?

Designer and Decorator Certification and Licensing

So what does it take to become a certified interior designer? Along with the school requirements we discussed in the previous section, interior designers must also complete 3,520 hours of interior design work experience. This is equivalent to roughly two years of full-time work, though up to half of the hours may be earned part-time while the applicant is still in school [soucre: NCIDQ].

After these requirements have been met, the applicant is eligible to sit for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification exam. The exam covers technical aspects of the design process, including building codes, structural engineering concepts, fire safety and handicap accessibility, as well as information on construction materials and methods. After passing the exam, the applicant is able to enter the industry as a licensed interior designer.

While only half of U.S. states currently require licensing, it can be beneficial for applicants from all states to pursue NCIDQ certification. Having a license from a nationally recognized governing body can not only help you get a job in the industry, it's often required of all applicants by architecture and design firms. At the very least, in this competitive industry, it's a way of getting your foot in the door, and of proving your design abilities and knowledge to clients and employers. In addition, there's a strong possibility that more states will require licensing -- especially as building technology evolves -- making the certification process more important than ever.

As of 2009, there are no states or jurisdictions that require decorators to be licensed. Because decorators are more focused on the surface appearance of a space than on the more technical design aspects, there's less concern about safety and compliance with building codes than when it comes to design.