Become an Interior Design Educator

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If you’re an interior designer looking for a new career, consider pursuing higher education. To ensure the future of interior design, it’s essential to increase the number of qualified educators. Teaching interior design could be your next step, and IDEC is here to assist you in this decision-making process. Our website offers information on different internal design programs, types of higher education institutions, various degrees, faculty expectations, and preparation requirements. Additionally, our advisors are available through the IDEA Line to support you as you explore teaching or further study in interior design. When you’re at a career crossroads, the guidance of others can be incredibly valuable. To get started, we recommend reading the following sections:

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What does it mean To be an educator?

Types of Academic Positions

Part-Time, Adjunct Lecturer Positions

Institutions use different nomenclature for these positions and the expectations and requirements vary greatly. Some are contracted on a semester (or quarter) to semester basis others on a yearly basis. Some institutions offer benefits with these positions and others do not. It is important to ask these questions and ask to be given any information regarding expectations of the position before you sign a contract. The information given below regarding Scholarly Work, Hiring, and Credentials has been developed for Full-time Positions only.

Full-Time Positions

Full-time faculty are typically expected to divide their work into three different areas: teaching, scholarly endeavors, and service. The weight given to each “leg” of this tripod varies by institution and appointment type. For example, teaching and service will weigh more heavily in Associate and Specialty Focus institutions and scholarly endeavors in Research institutions. It is important to understand the expectations that are established for faculty by the tenure procedure and/or union contract. For a more complete discussion of these expectations read: What is a typical academic appointment?

Associate Degree Granting Institutions
Scholarly work:

Faculty are not typically expected to produce scholarship as a part of employment responsibilities.

Hiring appointments:

May include both Tenure-track/ Tenure and Non-Tenure Appointments.

Educational Credentials:

May vary based on appointment, but a post-professional master’s degree is often required. Some programs may accept a bachelor’s degree with other professional credentials.

Bachelor Degree Granting Institutions and Special Focus Institutions
Scholarly work:

Faculty may have some expectations, especially if teaching at the graduate level.

Hiring appointments:

Most likely to be Non-Tenure Appointments.

Educational Credentials:

May vary based on appointment and level of instructional responsibilities (UG / G), but a master’s degree in the design fields is often required. Some programs may accept a bachelor’s degree with other professional credentials or minimum number of years of professional experience.

Bachelor & Master’s Degree Granting Institutions
Scholarly work:

May have some expectations to produce scholarship as a part of employment responsibilities, especially if teaching at the graduate level.

Hiring appointments:

May include both Tenure-track/ Tenure and Non-Tenure appointment opportunities.

Educational Credentials:

Can vary based on appointment and level of instructional responsibilities (UG / G), but a post-professional master’s degree in the design fields is often required.

Research Universities and Institutions
Scholarly work:

Faculty are expected to produce scholarship as a part of employment responsibilities if on tenure-track/ tenure.

Hiring appointments:

May include both Tenure-track/ Tenure and Non-Tenure Appointments.

Educational Credentials:

For faculty on tenure-track / tenure, a terminal degree in the field is required. This would include PhD, and, some design programs may also accept an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree, which is considered by some to be a ‘terminal’ degree. For faculty on non-tenure track positions, a post-professional master’s level degree is required.

Types of Academic Institutions

There are a wide variety of institutions of higher education and interior design/ interior architecture programs can be found in a variety of settings. Below are some brief profiles of the most common homes for interior programs along with some attributes that may impact faculty appointments within these programs. Institutional Profiles were developed using information provided through The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Associate Degree Granting Institutions

Institutions where degrees are at the associate’s level. For interior design programs, these are commonly Community Colleges or Vocational Colleges. Because these programs don’t culminate in a bachelor’s degree, Interior Design Programs offered at these institutions are not eligible for CIDA accreditation. Some students may pursue a bachelor level interior design degree after completion of their associate’s degree.

Associate & Bachelor Degree Granting Institutions

Institutions where degrees are focused at the associate’s and bachelor’s level. These include a variety of institutions that provide private, post-secondary education. For interior design programs, these are commonly Technical Colleges, Art Institutes. Professional programs at these institutions are often very “applied” in their mission.

Bachelor & Masters Degree Granting Institutions

Institutions with high undergraduate enrollments across multiple curriculums (liberal arts focused not professional focus) awarding both bachelor’s (undergraduate, or ‘UG’) and master’s level (graduate, or ‘G’) degrees. Interior Design Programs at these institutions are typically located in colleges or departments that emphasize teaching, the scholarship of teaching and a cross-disciplinary education through a variety of academic programs.

Research Universities and Institutions

Institutions that award doctoral degrees in addition to bachelor’s and master’s level degrees. These institutions have a strong research focus in their mission and their tenure and tenure-track faculty are expected to participate in scholarly work and disseminate their findings beyond the institution.

Special Focus Institutions

Institutions awarding a range of degrees including associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s level where a high concentration of degrees are in a single field or set of related fields. Schools or Institutes of Art and Design, or Academies of Art, or Colleges of the Arts often fall into this category. Professional programs at these institutions are often very “applied” in their mission.

Types of Degrees

Different types of institutions award different types of degrees. Degrees can vary in their focus as well as the knowledge and skills sets obtained. Some degrees are based on general educational requirements; professional degrees are those that are considered to be the minimum degree required to enter a profession and then take the next steps toward professional credentials (e.g. in the interior design profession, take the NCIDQ examination). Graduate-level research-based degrees emphasis advanced theoretical knowledge and skills sets necessary for scholarly work. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) only accredits first professional degrees.

Associate’s Degree

An undergraduate degree that is completed in either two or three years of study. In interior design/interior architecture or allied design fields these degrees may have a strong vocational focus.

First-Professional Bachelor’s Degree

An undergraduate degree that is completed in either two or three years of study. In interior design/interior architecture or allied design fields these degrees may have a strong vocational focus.

Post-Professional Master’s Degree

A masters-level degree that is obtained after the completion of a professional-level degree (either bachelor or master’s level). Post-professional degrees in the design fields are typically focused on other academic/ research knowledge and may not have a studio component.

Terminal Degree

A graduate-level degree that is considered the highest level of graduate education needed to demonstrate a mastery of the processes for systematic inquiry related to the body of knowledge in a particular field of study. In interior design, the Doctoral of Philosophy is a commonly considered a terminal degree. Depending on the institution and their focus, other post-professional graduate level degrees such as a Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design or Interior Architecture, or, Master of Interior Design, or Master of Architecture may be considered a terminal degree.

What is a typical academic appointment?

This depends on the institution, its priorities, degree(s) conferred, and the other contractual duties that are assigned through the appointment. Typically it will involve teaching, scholarly activity and service.

Teaching Obligations

Interior design faculty teaching loads can vary significantly. During an interview process, you should inquire what a typical appointment involves, and what the particulars of your contract would look like regarding the number of courses per semester, or quarter. In particular, it is wise to understand the number of different courses you will teach during any given semester so that you know how many course preparations are required simultaneously.

Institutions of higher education are expected to demonstrate that students are learning the necessary information that will equip them for successful careers after they graduate. This involves more detailed analysis of the course materials (the inputs) and then the outcomes from student work. As an academic, you will be expected to demonstrate your effectiveness in instruction by providing evidence of what your students have learned in your classroom.

Scholarly Activities

Many institutions also include scholarly outcomes in the appointment. Scholarship expectations should be clearly defined regarding the type of scholarship that is viewed as acceptable (See also; What is scholarship?). If you are expected to produce scholarly work, then you will want to have a clear understanding of the amount of time you can use to focus on these outcomes. Most all academics with scholarship expectations find that they have to use their summers (or other breaks during the academic calendar) to get enough done to fulfill their scholarship expectations, even though they may not be on contract during these times.

Service Obligations

One of the rights and privileges of academic life is the role of self-governance in guiding the direction of the academic mission of the institution. This responsibility comes with the expectation that faculty participate in service obligations, and these expectations are a common component of an academic appointment. Service may include a variety of committee assignments or expectations for other institutional and/ or professional service work.

What is scholarship in academy?

Scholarship can be defined as creative, intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated broadly (Weiser, 1996). Scholarship can include various forms of inquiry and result in different outcomes, but all scholarly work achieves stated goals, is documented and evaluated, and is communicated or made public in appropriate ways so as to have an impact on the discipline and significance within the field. Scholarship in the design fields may focus on physical, aesthetic, socio-cultural and psychological issues concerned with the interface between humans and building environment, as well as design education in all its facets.

Ernest L. Boyer (1997) provides a framework for considering four models of scholarship that are widely considered applicable in higher education and are commonly used as a basis for evaluating faculty on tenure-track appointments. These four areas are especially relevant to the diverse scholarship conducted by design educators:

Scholarship of discovery

The identification of new knowledge and/or investigation of situations and/or phenomena with empirically-based outcomes. The design scholar, as observer and interpreter, promotes the understanding of human experience and design, adding to cultural understanding and meaning, to historical understanding and meaning, and/or to scientific (social, psychological, technical and physical) understanding of human-environment interaction within a given context (Dohr, 2007). Work generates and communicates new knowledge and understanding; develops and refines methods (Weiser, 1996; Boyer 1997)

Scholarship of integration

Interpretation of existing scholarly work with alternative theoretical perspectives and/or placing existing research within a wider context. The design scholar seeks to make others see, experience, and understand through new visual experiential structures or through forms unto themselves (Dohr, 2007). Work that interprets the human spirit; creates and communicates new insights and beauty; develops and refines methods (Weiser, 1996). Work gives meaning to isolated facts, putting them in perspective and making connections across the disciplines (Boyer, 1997)

Scholarship of application

Application and/or engagement of theoretical frameworks or existing knowledge often through practice or other creative works. The design scholar, as practitioner and interpreter, seeks to change human conditions, to approach planning and design from a holistic perspective, which includes understanding values and applying design theories and research findings in an innovative manner (Dohr, 2007).

Scholarship of Teaching

Advancing learning theory through classroom research, and transmitting and/or extending knowledge and theory of pedagogy beyond the classroom. In design education there are multiple areas of pedagogy that can be explored to better understand the dimensions of learning and creative theory, especially in studio-based educational settings (e.g. see UNSW, 2015).

Outcomes and Measures of Scholarship

Each institution establishes its own culture for recognizing and measuring the value of scholarly work; there are no “uniform expectations.” A peer-reviewed process is typically deemed as critical in giving merit to the outcomes. Documented acceptance/rejection rates, and the rigor of the review process all contribute to the relative “value” of the scholarly work. Depending on the institutional guidelines, outcomes of scholarship and methods of dissemination may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Published manuscripts in peer-reviewed, professional journals and proceedings.
  2. Published books (including textbooks, research-based monographs, and edited volumes).
  3. Publications in editor-reviewed outlets (including book chapters, editorials published in a journal, etc.).
  4. Presented papers at juried international, national, and regional conferences and meetings.
  5. Exhibitions of creative scholarship in juried international, national, and regional exhibitions, conferences, and meetings.
  6. Invited presentations and exhibitions at the international, national, and regional level.
  7. Awards/recognition received for scholarship, including student work performed under the faculty member’s supervision.
  8. External and internal competitive funding (including grants and contracts) to support scholarly activities.
  9. Professional practice that requires specialized knowledge related to the faculty member’s scholarly expertise – including designing interiors, buildings, and products; and earning patents and copyrights for intellectual property.
  10. Post-occupancy evaluations of work produced as professional practice indicating excellence in design to meet user needs.
  11. Citations by other scholars, use of work in other publications or standards.
  12. Featured articles or reviews of faculty/student scholarship in the media.

Citations and Sources for Additional Information

What is IDEA-Line?

IDEA-Line offers an opportunity to contact experienced IDEC members. These individuals are interior designers, faculty and/or administrators who bring a wealth of knowledge to the field. While located in different geographic locations in the United States and Canada, they share a sincere, deep interest in sustaining the future of interior design and interior design education. Each and all have strong networks across education and practice. If you are interested in speaking with one of our volunteers fill out the form in this section. You will be contacted to begin the discussion.

  • Fill out the online interest form below.
  • You will be contacted to arrange to speak with an advisor at a time that is convenient to both of you.
  • The adviser will be interested in your story, your questions and together you will explore various directions. The adviser might suggest that you contact other individuals once your interests and/or direction are clearer. The adviser can assist in formulating focused questions, areas of your work to feature, and explore options with you.
  • The adviser will send a follow up inquiry to see if further questions arise.

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