Interior Decorating Certification vs. Degree: Which Is Right For You? - QC Design School

Getting professional training is one of the best things you can do for your interior decorating career. You’ll learn everything you need to know about color theory, window treatments, furniture proportions, and more! You’ll also learn to navigate the business side of the industry.

Success is equal parts technical skill and business know-how. But do you really need an interior decorating degree to get you there?

Here’s the honest truth: you don’t need a degree to work as an interior decorator. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a formal education. You should be doing everything you can to stand out among other budding designers.

Keep reading to find out whether an interior decorating certification or degree is the right path for you!

Why should you even get professional training?

qc design school - interior decorating course

Let’s start with why you should get professional training in the first place. You don’t technically need any sort of certification or training to become an interior decorator. If you want, you can just wake up one day and decide you want to be one! You may even potentially become one of the leading decorators in your area. But your chance of success isn’t very high without professional knowledge in the field.

From there, you can choose to complete an apprenticeship/assistantship or attend school. Apprenticing means you’ll learn completely on the job, but finding someone who is available (and qualified) to train you isn’t easy. Most will be too busy to take someone under their wing. Other times, they may already be mentoring someone else.

Besides the logistics of apprenticeships, there is one more thing you must keep in mind. If your chosen mentor has found his or her niche, he or she may not provide you with opportunities or adequate training about other areas in the design industry. This means you won’t have a comprehensive interior decorating education. If you want to learn it all, look into interior decorating courses.

A quick search online will bring up results that say “interior decorating degree” or “interior decorating certification”. To a novice, they might sound like the same thing – but they’re definitely not. Let’s explore the differences between the two!

interior design student working with floorplans

What’s an interior decorating degree?

Universities offer degree programs. You’ll have to take many years of schooling and complete dozens of courses before you can graduate with a degree. Here’s the thing: you won’t likely find interior decorating degrees in your local post-secondary institutions at all! The ones you WILL see are for interior design.

Interior design is a highly regulated field requiring a degree, apprenticeship and licensing. It does go over the dressing elements found in interior decorating, but it’s far more technical. Interior designers must learn about architectural elements such as changing the existing structure of a building or designing a building from the ground up. Drawing building plans and planning electrical layouts are also part of the job.

But if you’re more into the creative elements, then interior design may not be for you. Why pursue a degree that is more technical than what you’ll need as a decorator? With interior decorating, a license is not required. Set your sights on achieving a professional certificate!

What’s an interior decorating certificate?

Colleges and specialty vocational schools offer certification programs for interior decorating. Knowledge and practical application go hand-in-hand in certification programs. Besides the perk of lower tuition fees, you’ll also graduate faster. Certification programs are shorter in length and deliver a “no-frills” education!

interior decorating professional decorating a loft

You’ll learn all about lighting design, creating floorplans, and how to work with textiles. But anything involving building or fundamental changes to the space will be outsourced to a contractor. You’ll find that there’s a large emphasis on client-relations in decorating. This field is ultimately centered around your clients’ needs and improving how they feel about their own home. You’ll learn all the professional skills you need to succeed in the industry in addition to business units that will help you run your own decorating business.

Don’t assume an interior decorating certification is either a shortcut to success or a guarantee of employment. It definitely doesn’t replace the legwork required to get your business off the ground. But graduating from a certification course gives you the tools you need to face any challenges that come your way.

So, which one should you choose?

The choice is really up to you. You don’t legally need any degree, certification, or license to work as an interior decorator. But investing in your skillset and your future is highly recommended. After all, this isn’t an industry where mistakes are easily overlooked.

Do your research before enrolling in any program. If you’re set on taking interior decorating at a college or university, look into the curriculum of the programs. If they’re physics- and math-heavy, then it’s really an interior design program. You’ll graduate with a highly rewarding career, but it’s a lot of work and the technical side isn’t for everyone.

interior decorating client home living room decor

If you’re looking to receive hands-on experience and break into the industry ASAP, look into interior decorating certification programs. These condensed programs are shorter than degree programs, which can contain many filler courses that you don’t need. That being said, shorter programs aren’t always indicative of quality. It’s unlikely that you’ll learn everything you need to succeed in a three-session course with a multiple choice exam!

Take your time to research and find a program that suits your lifestyle and goals. One where you learn all the ins-and-outs, and have access to your materials for years to come.

Have you decided yet? Let us know!

Positive you want a career in the design biz? Find out how to start an interior decorating business!

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