Accreditation and Certification
Online kitchen and bath design programs are hard to find, with most options being traditional education programs supplemented by online courses. However, prospective students still have several options to consider, including programs focused specifically on kitchen and bath design, or those that incorporate these principles as part of a larger design curriculum.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) is the accrediting agency for kitchen and bath design programs. The NKBA also confers certified status on designers in the industry, with designations ranging from Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer to Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer. To become certified, applicants must meet education and experience requirements and pass a series of exams. Online or hybrid kitchen and bath design programs or courses are available through a few colleges and universities.
Aspiring designers who want to attain certification can benefit from choosing a school with an NKBA-accredited program, since these programs feature curricula that prepare students to take the first certification exam immediately upon graduation. Those who complete a non-accredited program must accumulate two years of work experience before they can sit for the first exam.
The NKBA maintains a list of accredited and candidate programs on its website. Programs lead to a diploma, certificate, or degree, either in interior design or in kitchen and bath design. While a few select NKBA-accredited programs may be online, the majority are available in a traditional format.
On-Campus vs. Online Learning
Kitchen and bath design programs typically include courses in lighting design, plumbing and electrical systems, technical drawing, color principles, and construction materials. The curriculum involves design studios and labs in which students might plan an interior space using computer-aided design software or manual drafting tools. Additional items like paint chips and flooring samples help students envision a complete kitchen or bathroom.
Because this type of curriculum is very hands-on, the coursework doesn't translate well into an online program. Students in an entry-level degree program might be able to complete certain credits online, but the bulk of their design training will need to be done in person.
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Continuing Education Courses
Kitchen and bath design professionals who already have a lot of hands-on experience in the field may advance or renew their studies online. To maintain NKBA certification, designers must complete a certain amount of continuing education (CE) coursework. CE classes in kitchen and bath design are offered online both by schools and the NKBA itself. In addition, certified designers who don't hold degrees (such as those who graduated with diplomas or certificates) may pursue online degree completion programs.
Schools that offer online CE classes for kitchen and bath designers usually do so through partnerships with the NKBA. These classes may take the form of webinars, which are online seminars in which the instructor and students all log in simultaneously and discuss the course topic in real-time. Other online CE classes may utilize asynchronous learning. This format allows students to study on their own schedules, although they're still responsible for submitting assignments, like a materials estimate for a mock bathroom project, according to deadline. Topics might include:
- Bath layout and design
- Advanced kitchen design
- Interior specifications, materials, and methods
- Computer aided design
Also offered through an NKBA school partnership, the degree completion program allows certified designers to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree with a concentration in kitchen and bath design. Candidates are awarded credits based on the certifications they hold, since these credentials represent significant work experience; for example, one school translates a Certified Kitchen Designer designation into 21 credits. Students then complete their remaining general education credits through online courses in math, science, humanities, and composition.
Schools with Online Programs
Accredited by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, Century College provides students with a 30-credit online kitchen and bath design certificate. This program combines both design and business knowledge to help graduates learn how to create aesthetically appealing and functional spaces. At the end of the program, students take part in an internship with a kitchen or bathroom company to gain real-world experience
Penn Foster College
Penn Foster College offers an online associate's degree in interior design, which covers many of the same skills as kitchen and bath design and may include study on kitchens and bathrooms. Completion of this degree gives graduates 45 credits towards the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam education requirements.
To recap, when choosing where to pursue an education in kitchen and bath design, it is important to consider the programs available and their delivery format as well as the school's accreditation and their graduates' preparedness for earning certification.