You're probably thinking to yourself “what is the difference between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator??" It's all about the qualifications. When I think of a Designer, I think of someone who is fully rounded and educated when it comes to all aspects of design (sustainability, maintenance, accessibility, programming needs, reflected ceiling plans, etc.). A decorator on the other hand, I find are the people who don't have the education and background, but take up decorating more as a hobby. Any person can call themselves an Interior Decorator, but only those who qualify (have a four year degree, years of experience, and passed the licensing exam) can call themselves Interior Designers.
Step 1: Education
To become a licensed Interior Designer in the state of Virginia, you must graduate from a four year accredited degree programs. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) "assures the public that interior design education prepares students to be responsible, well-informed, skilled professionals who make beautiful, safe, and comfortable spaces that also respect the earth and its resources." CIDA sets the standard for these accredited institutions.
Step 2: Experience
After graduation, you must obtain at least two years of formal training with in the Interior Design Field.
Step 3: Examination
After four years of education and two years of experience, you are eligible to take the licensing exam. The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) administers the exam. If you pass the exam, by law, you can call yourself an Interior Designer. This means you have acquired the standard knowledge of what it entails to be an Interior Designer.
This is the NCIDQ's view on the difference between Interior Design and Decorating:
Many people use the terms "interior design" and "interior decorating" interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways.
Interior design is the art and science of understanding people's behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.
Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants' quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.
The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.
Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered—documenting their formal education and training—and many of them specifically require that all practicing interior designers earn the NCIDQ Certificate to demonstrate their experience and qualifications. By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure.