An Analysis of the Acceptable Terminal Degree in Interior Design

Presented by: Beth R. Miller and Lyndsey L. Miller

The acceptable terminal degree requirement for teaching interior design at the university or college level was not clearly established in interior design’s beginning educational development.  As recent as the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC 2014) Annual Conference, a panel discussion addressed areas such as the terminology for master’s degrees in interior design, rationalization for the panels suggested modifications, and plans for adoption of these modifications (Harwood, Weigand, & Dohr, 2014).  Over the past ten years, educators within IDEC have written journal articles, presented at conferences, written chapters in books, and participated in town hall discussions at regional and national meetings concerning the problems that exist with the current state of graduate degrees currently offered in interior design graduate education.

Existing graduate programs in interior design and programs that are developing a graduate program need to know the graduate degree that interior design chairs across the United States desire in a candidate applying for an educational position. From data provided by interior design chairs, a preferred degree preference can be identified and the significance of NCIDQ certification can be determined.  As many universities move toward online master’s degrees, data can also be obtained that would record the acceptance level of an online master’s in interior design as a credential for obtaining a faculty position.  Online master’s programs appeal to professionals practicing interior design who would like to pursue a graduate degree without leaving their career.  This study can aid graduate programs in their graduate degree program development and has the potential to assist in alleviating the current shortage of qualified interior design faculty.    

The purpose of this study is to determine whether program chairs in interior design have a preferred degree credential for candidates seeking a full-time tenure track position or a full-time position at their institution and to determine if there is a correlation between this preference and the program chair’s university demographics, their own credentials, as well as their acceptance of an online terminal degree.  The results will provide informational data to program chairs as well as candidates seeking employment and undergraduates considering master’s programs. 

A pilot study is being conducted prior to the collection of research data for the main evaluation.  For this pilot study, a population of interior design program chairs, who have retired or stepped down from their chair position, comprise the pilot study of approximately 25 participants.  These participants are assessing the validation of the survey instrument and are providing suggestions and modifications. 

The poster will exhibit a graphic representation of data and information on a major issue that is facing interior design education.  The poster will list the key issues resulting in the need for the study. Research questions will be presented which guided the survey instrument development.  Numerous charts will exhibit data collected that has implications to the study. Conclusions will be derived from the data and shown on the poster.  The poster on display will open a dialog of discussion among educators from across the United States and Canada.


  • Harwood, B., Weigand, J., & Dohr, J.  (Mar. 2014).  Action plan: Grad education and the mid.  2014 Conference Proceedings of Interior Design Educator’s Council, New Orleans, LA.


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