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 baccalaureate-level degree with a targeted focus on a particular career type. Bachelor’s degrees that are accredited by CIDA must be a minimum of four years.
First-professional Master’s Degree: A masters-level degree with a targeted focus on a particular career type. Some programs offer options for obtaining the first professional masters without first obtaining an undergraduate degree in interior design or closely allied field.
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 Degrees: 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.