Whether you’re actively studying for exams now or just starting to think about the NCIDQ Exam requirements, you’ve probably realized that it’s no walk in the park. To pass all sections of the NCIDQ Exam, you need a clear understanding of exactly what’s involved.
This is why you need a roadmap for figuring out the NCIDQ Exam requirements.
NCIDQ Exam Requirements
Just like when you’re planning a road trip, you take time in advance to map out the route you’re going to take. You plan how you’re going to get there, how long it’ll take, and more. You may plan to use your GPS or Google maps. Or you may decide you’re not going to drive your own car but rent a convertible so you can feel the wind in your hair.
Before you start on your NCIDQ journey, you’ll want to use a roadmap, so you don’t waste valuable time. Don't get stuck taking a wrong turn or end up on a complicated detour. Preparation from the get-go is the key to success on the NCIDQ.
We get a lot of questions from people at the planning and prep stage of their NCIDQ journey. So we’ve created a roadmap to help you start your trip completely prepared for what’s to come.
You can create your candidate account and get started on your application for free here. Once you create an account, you will be assigned a six-digit control number to include on the work form and transcript submission form. Anyone seeking to apply for and take the NCIDQ Exam will need an account as the application process and financial transactions are all done online.
Here we cover some of the basics before you get started, so you know exactly what to expect. But, first, understand the time frame to pass and the educational requirements:
What is the time limit for passing all sections of the NCIDQ?
Once your application is approved, you'll receive a detailed timeline. The specifics will depend upon whether you are taking IDFX first before completing all your work experience.
IDFX Application Timeline
Your approved application for IDFX is valid for 4 Exam administrations (the exam is given twice per year — in April and October). The clock begins with the first exam window following your application approval.
Post Graduation/Final Year Students
Bachelor's or Master's Degree Interior Design Program
So once your application has been approved, you must take and pass IDFX within 4 exam windows or approximately 2 years.
Do I have to take IDFX first?
Once you have your required work experience, you can take the sections in any order and combination you wish.
Individuals are eligible to apply for and take the IDFX Exam starting their final year of a Bachelor's or Master's degree interior design program (or anytime after graduation). This will put you on the road to a stronger career as an interior designer and show employers that you’re worth investing in.
Just get started. After all, you can’t start your journey until you book your trip! Once you pass IDFX, then you can take IDPX and Practicum in any combination or order that works for you.
NCIDQ Application Timeline — All 3 Sections
If you have already earned your qualified work experience, your approved application for all 3 sections is valid for 10 exam administrations or approximately 5 years.
Earned Approved Education and Qualified Work Experience
*You can take the tests for each section in any order you choose.
So, in summary, you must pass all 3 sections within 10 exam windows or approximately 5 years from the date that you first passed 1 section. If you don't pass all sections within 5 years, you’ll have to start over as your scores will be canceled.
So you want to make sure that you’re going to be able to complete everything within that 5-year window before you start.
According to CIDQ, this is because
New applicable professional skills emerge all the time and are reflected on the most recent versions of the exam. Going beyond the five-year window makes some of your knowledge obsolete.
How much time will it require to take all 3 tests at once?
The Qpractice study plan is designed to help designers complete all 3 sections in one exam season, from January through April or July through October.
With our new simple pricing and monthly subscription options, you can take the exams in any order you wish over time.
Many Qpractice alumni have successfully taken all 3 exam sections at once and passed. It's a lot of work and can be an overwhelming time commitment for some, so other designers prefer to split it up. The choice is yours and based on your personal preference, schedule, and learning style. Some people prefer to get their trip done quickly, and others do better when they take their time. There’s no one right way to go about it.
Most of all, you should not feel rushed or the need to cram. This is important information that helps build your professional knowledge base, and you really do want it to “stick.”
What education do I need?
CIDQ groups their education requirements into different “routes” by type of degree and amount of work experience. Every route requires college credit interior design courses. CIDQ doesn’t accept certificate programs or continuing education.
Here’s the rundown:
- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Interior Design is the preferred degree.
- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Architecture from programs accredited by NAAB or CACB in the United States and Canada may also qualify*
- Degrees from programs outside the United States may also qualify if they meet certain requirements*
Currently, Associate’s degrees may meet the requirements if the program has at least 60 hours of interior design courses. However, shorter programs have been phased out. So if you’re taking or considering a 2-year degree program, you’ll need to be sure exactly how many hours of actual interior design courses your program includes.
*If you also plan to become licensed or certified in your state, check your state requirements which may vary from and exceed CIDQ requirements.
What work experience do I need?
Just like your road trip, there're a few different routes you can take based on your work experience and education. Let’s look at a few considerations:
Are you taking the expressway or the scenic route?
With the preferred education – a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Interior Design ﹘ you’ll need 1-2 years of “qualified” work experience for a total of 3,520 hours.
The best way to get this experience is to work under an NCIDQ certificate holder. You can also work under a registered or licensed interior designer or a registered architect who provides interior design services. You’ll get 100% credit for your time and rack up your hours faster.
Plus, you can get some of your hours while you’re still in school – you can earn up to 1,760 hours of work experience before you graduate.
Why does your tank of gas cost more?
If you have a different degree, you’ll need more hours of work experience. For example, if you have an Associate’s Degree (minimum 60 hours of interior design courses) or an architectural degree from an accredited school, you’ll need 5,280 hours, or just over 2 1/2 years of experience if you’re working full time.
You’ll still get to the same destination, but it will take you a little longer. Think of it as taking a pit stop for snacks and drinks. In this case, you can’t earn hours while you’re in school, so you’ll have to finish your education first.
Making sure you don’t run out of gas
If you have a 40-hour Associate’s Degree, don’t put off taking and passing the NCIDQ Exam because there’s a limited window in which you can use your hours. You’ll need more than 3 years of work experience, and you’ll have to earn all that after you graduate.
For example, if you graduated in 2015, you need three years of work experience. With that in mind, you want to ensure you plan to take and pass the NCIDQ within that window.
What About Alternative Routes to Licensing?
If you live in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, or Ontario (through ARIDO), your state or province is part of NCIDQ’s member boards, and there’s a fast pass. While the NCIDQ Exam requirements are essentially the same, it’s the licensing equivalent of not having to stop to pay tolls on the highway.
There may be fewer restrictions when these designers apply directly through their state, not NCIDQ. This is to be eligible to take the exam to meet their state’s requirements for getting a license.
It’s important to note there’s a difference if you go this route. Keep in mind that if your state's licensing or registration requirements are less than the official NCIDQ Exam requirements, after passing the exam, you may become registered without actually earning your NCIDQ Certificate. You do NOT get an NCIDQ Certificate number and are not listed as an NCIDQ Certificate holder unless you also meet NCIDQ’s requirements. So, yes, you’ll have a license, but you won’t have the NCIDQ credentials.