20 Interior Design Certifications and Communities You Need to Know About

20 Design Certifications and Communities You Need to Know About


As a designer, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition? What is your competitive edge? How can you prove to your client that you are trained, specialized, and the perfect match to help turn their house into a home?

Gaining certifications and being an active member of an design community helps to show the client that design is not just your job, it’s your passion. According to NARI, over 80% of consumers would choose a remodeling professional who is certified over one who is not.

There are many different types certifications and communities within the design space.

Check out the list below to see how you can increase your value and get involved in your professional community.

Written by Sarah Rebarber

AAHID – American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers (certification)

AAHID board-certifies interior designers in the U.S. and Canada who specialize in healthcare – including acute care, ambulatory care, and residential care facility design. Led by a volunteer board of directors, AAHID is constantly striving to improve the certification process, study materials, and exam. Upon receiving the CHID (Certified Healthcare Interior Designer) credential, you will be distinguished and qualified by education, examination, and work experience to practice healthcare interior design — which separates you from other architects, designers, decorators, and interior designers. The CHID credential provides: professional credibility, ongoing growth and knowledge development, networking and volunteer opportunities, a listing in AAHID’s online directory of Certified Healthcare Interior Designers, an invitation to AAHID’s annual breakfast at the Healthcare Design conference, and quarterly email updates with news and information about AAHID events.

ALA – American Lighting Specialist (certification and community)

The American Lighting Association is a trade association working to protect and advance the residential lighting industry, while promoting the sale and proper application of quality lighting products. Certifications include Lighting Associate (LA), Lighting Specialist (LS), Certified Lighting Manufacturers Representative (CLMR), and Certified Lighting Consultant (CLC). The ALA makes it possible for firms in the lighting industry to increase their share of the market; develop effective public relations programs to increase consumers’ awareness of lighting; benefit from sales and design training opportunities; monitor the actions of legislative and regulatory bodies; represent the industry’s interests in negotiations; and encourage the continuing development and proper use of safe, energy-efficient products.

ASID – American Society of Interior Designers (community)

Be a part of a community of interior designers at every stage of your career. ASID provides funding annually to various research and scholarship initiatives as well as career stage programming that focus on Impact of Design, the Business of Design, and Leadership Development and Health & Wellness. ASID also offers study prep courses for the WELL exam and seminars for principals/owners interested in learning about business transitions. Lastly, ASID members on Houzz are eligible for a host of benefits, including automatic approval into the Houzz Trade Program with access to product discounts and referral bonuses, concierge service to set up a free Houzz profile and mobile-friendly website, and an ASID profile badge to showcase your affiliation and expertise.

CIDA – Council for Interior Design Accreditation (certification)

Originally known as the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER), CIDA aims to advance the interior design profession as the definitive source for quality standards and accreditation in higher education. Higher education level programs accredited by CIDA voluntarily place themselves before the scrutiny of the profession to ensure that students receive an education that will serve them not only during their time at school, but also prepare them for future professional growth. Students enrolled in a CIDA accredited interior design program can be confident that the program meets the quality standards recognized by the profession. Here’s a list of the top 10 CIDA accredited schools in the U.S.

DFA – Decorative Furnishings Association (community)

DFA is committed to the health, growth, and future of interior design. That is why they launched the #DoItFor website and ad campaign, to encourage consumers to hire interior designers (as opposed to DIY). The DoItFor website has an online portal that connects consumers with interior designers via an online quiz and matchmaking tool. Chad Stark, former president of the DFA, spearheaded the initiative last year. He explained, “With #DoItFor, we are highlighting the reason you design your home in the first place: It is where special moments happen. When it comes to decorating our homes, it’s too important to do it yourself. So, we say work with professionals. Don’t do it yourself, do it for yourself: ‘DoItFor: Your Loved Ones,’ ‘DoItFor: Her First Steps,’ and for all the special moments that happen at home….”

DLN – Design Leadership Network (community)

DLN was founded by Peter Sallick, a creative entrepreneur and business leader who has led Waterworks for most of the past 20 years and co-founded Dering Hall. Peter brings decades of experience in the industry. The Design Leadership Network is committed to stimulate education and connectivity through summits. What began as intimate regional meetings with high-level designers, architects, landscape architects and industry influencers, is now an organization of 300+ top tier design industry professionals across multiple disciplines, corporate brands and media outlets. The DLN is eager to strengthen their community by investing in resources to support education, research, and advocacy in new and compelling venues, tools, and programs.

DSA – Designer Society of America (community)

DSA is committed to increasing opportunities for talented and creative designers to obtain education and the credentials to reach their highest potential professionally. When you become a member of DSA you receive discounted prices on national product lines and resources with direct links; CEU programs including home study educational courses, tele-seminar and webinar annual schedules; design newsletters and support, all member communication concerning industry practices, issues, and trends is sent via email; and more!

IDCEC – Interior Design Continuing Education Council (community and re-certification)

Continuing education strengthens the interior design profession by improving individual attitudes, competencies, knowledge and skills in specific subject areas essential to interior design. IDCEC has streamlined and centralized the support to learners, providers, reviewers and administrators, as well as enhanced the administration and approval process of professional continuing education units (CEUs) within the interior design industry. It is IDCEC’s mission to serve as the premier advocate for continuing education in the advancement of the interior design profession, and to inspire and guide providers of continuing education programs to deliver high-quality, lifelong learning activities for interior design practitioners. The IDCEC Board of Directors is a diverse group of individuals who are committed to the advancement of the interior design profession and lifelong learning. They represent the three major member associations, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) and education providers from the interior design industry. Continuing education strengthens the interior design profession by improving individual attitudes, competencies, knowledge and skills in subject areas essential to the growth and success of the industry.

IDEC – Interior Design Educators Council (community)

As described in its first Constitution, the stated purpose of the IDEC is to be “dedicated to the development and improvement of interior design education,” to establish and strengthen “lines of communication between individuals, educational institutions and organizations concerned with interior design,” and to strive “to improve teaching of interior design, and through it the professional level of interior design.” If you are passionate about spreading what you have learned in your time in interior design this community may be for you. Within IDEC there are networks that meet a minimum of once a year at the Annual Conference, as well as online forums to communicate with IDEC members.

IDS – Interior Design Society (community)

IDS offer a variety of educational opportunities for professionals in the Residential Interior Design Industry. IDS is an independent national organization comprised of more than 2,000 members. IDS offer online webinars and in-person CEUs throughout the year. Additionally, IDS host conferences throughout the year around the country. Conferences allow designers to earn CEUs at educational seminars and workshops, connect with vendors, network with other designers, and gain invaluable information on the latest trends and news in the residential interior design industry. IDS also offer educational tours to see inspiring design firsthand and explore a variety of architectural landmarks and beautifully decorated interiors. Previous tours have included Tuscany, Italy and Paris, France.

IES – Illuminating Engineering Society (community)

Join a community of over 8,000 engineers, consultants, researchers, interior designers, educators, manufacturers, and consumers who are involved in lighting by profession. By joining IES, you will have access to resources and opportunities to keep on top of changes in the lighting industry. Engage and network with peers and other professionals based on your areas of common interest as well as at a local section level. Lastly, continue your growth and education within the profession and industry through various educational opportunities like webinars and podcasts.

IFI – International Federation of Interior Architects / Designers (community)

IFI acts as a global forum for the exchange and development of knowledge and experience in worldwide education, research and practice. IFI connects the international community to further the impact, influence and application of the design of interiors, promote global social responsibility, and raise the status of the profession worldwide. Hosted annually, World Interiors Day (IFI WID) is a long-standing program that engages a broad range of people and communities around the world. Design professionals, students, enthusiasts, institutions, agencies and members of the public are invited to organize activities that explore the IFI WID theme for that year. IFI also has a portfolio of publications offering a global perspective on the Interior Architecture/Design profession. Topics range from historical archives of landmark design projects to breakthrough intellectual inquiries related to the practice of design.

IIDA – The International Interior Design Association (community)

IIDA is an association with global reach. IIDA supports design professionals, industry affiliates, educators, students, firms, and their clients through their network of 15,000+ members across 58 countries. IIDA hosts competitions, award ceremonies, conferences, and more! As a prominent voice for the industry, IIDA advocates for its members and their professions so interior designers may practice to their fullest abilities. IIDA offers many tools for designers interested in becoming an advocate and getting involved in local legislative issues. Join IIDA for 2019 by August 31 and save 50 percent on your membership!

IWBI – International WELL Building Institute (certification)

The WELL Building Standard v1 explores how design, operations and behaviors within the places where we live, work, learn and play can be optimized to advance human health and well-being. Covering seven core concepts of health and hundreds of features, WELL v1 is a flexible building standard and represents the future of modern design. The WELL Certification program are globally acknowledged and third-party administered through IWBI’s collaboration with USGBC, which also administers LEED certification. This relationship assures that WELL works seamlessly with LEED.  The WELL Building Standard is the first to be focused exclusively on the ways that buildings can improve our comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance our health and wellness.

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (community and certification)

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the leading organization representing the green building industry, committed to a sustainable, prosperous future through LEED, the leading program for green buildings and communities worldwide. A LEED credential denotes proficiency in today’s sustainable design, construction, and operations standards. More than 201,000 professionals have earned a LEED credential to help advance their careers. LEED for Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C) enables project teams who may not have control over whole building operations to develop indoor spaces that are better for the planet and for people. Showcase your knowledge, experience and credibility in the green building marketplace as a LEED professional.

NAHB – National Association of Home Builders (certification)

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) helps its members build communities. Each year, NAHB’s members construct about 80% of the new homes built in the United States, both single-family and multifamily. A federation of more than 700 state and local associations, NAHB represents more than 140,000 members. NAHB offers a series of certifications including Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), Certified Green Professional™ (CGP), Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR). Whether you’re looking to advance in your career or gain additional knowledge about a particular topic, NAHB Education offers a wide-range of learning options. NAHB is committed to providing the best residential home building knowledge to foster success in the industry.

NARI – National Association of the Remodeling Industry (community and certification)

NARI is an organization of high-quality remodeling professionals. Its members are committed to integrity, high standards, professional education, ethics and market recognition. NARI has 47 chapters located throughout the United States. NARI takes a stand for the industry by meeting with legislators in Washington to discuss issues of importance to the remodeling industry, such as workforce development and regulations. Certifications include: CR/CRS/CRA (Certified Remodeler, Certified Remodeler Specialist, Certified Remodeler Associate), MCR (Master Certified Remodeler), CKBR (Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler), CLC (Certified Lead Carpenter). CRPM (Certified Remodeling Project Manager), UDCP (Universal Design Certified Professional). NARI also has a library of more than 60 webinars that can be viewed at your leisure. NARI describes its core purpose to advance and promote the remodeling industry professionalism, product and vital public purpose.

NCIDQ – National Council for Interior Design Qualification (certification)

NCIDQ Certification is the industry’s recognized indicator of proficiency in interior design principles and a designer’s commitment to the profession. Professional interior designers have proven their expertise in understanding and applying current safety and welfare codes. The NCIDQ Exam serves as the basic foundation for general interior designers and those moving into specialty design areas. The exam covers seven areas that capture the core competencies of interior design: building systems, codes, construction standards, contract administration, design application, professional practice and project coordination. The exam’s contents are regularly updated to ensure they reflect the most current knowledge required to design safe, functional and innovative interior spaces. NCIDQ Certification is required for many types of interior design in regulated jurisdictions throughout North America.

NKBA – National Kitchen and Bath Association (certification)

NKBA offer a wide range of certifications including: Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer (AKBD), Certified Kitchen Designer® (CKD), Certified Bath Designer® (CBD), Certified Kitchen and Bath Designers (CKBD), and Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer (CMKBD). If you are already NKBA certified, use the NKBA CEU Reporting Form to submit your CEUs and maintain your certification. NKBA was developed to establish an immediate, deeper level of trust between kitchen and bath professionals and their clients.

Window Coverings Association of America (community)

The Window Coverings Association of America is the only national nonprofit trade association dedicated to the retail window coverings industry and its dealers, decorators, designers, and workrooms who are our members. WCAA was founded in 1986 as a division of the National Decorating Products Association. In 1993, the association left and became the Window Coverings Association of America. Today the WCAA has nearly 1,000 members in North America, Europe, and the Caribbean. WCAA’s goal as a national organization is to make available educational and networking opportunities for home professionals, to encourage a code of ethics for fair practices in the home industry, and to work for the betterment of the window coverings industry. WCAA is committed to providing professional networking opportunities virtually and locally; educational opportunities that support the code of ethics and best business practices; and promoting the value and visibility of our professional members.

WithIt (community)

WithIt was founded with the belief that women should play a major role in the growth and future of the home and furnishings industries. WithIt is one of the best networks in the home and furnishings industries existing to encourage and develop leadership, mentoring, education and networking opportunities for professional women. WithIt hosts annual professional women’s conferences as well as gives out awards and scholarships. WithIt’s impressive network of corporate partners, sponsors, and members would be valuable to any female interior designer.