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How to Choose the Best Interior Designer Degree Program near Fairfield Alabama

Fairfield Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design school near Fairfield AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's essential that you get the proper training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's crucial that you do the proper research in order to analyze and compare each school that you are looking at prior to making your ultimate selection. But just where do you start? Many future students will start their research by searching for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are relevant factors when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation must be taken into account as well. We will cover those topics and other crucial questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training options are offered.

Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

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Some people confuse interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The main distinction between them is the amount of training required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, conducting business as an interior designer requires formal training and in numerous states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or residential areas attractive as well as functional. On some occasions they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Fairfield AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers frequently work on new construction and existing homes. They can design basically any room of a house, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they may specialize in designing one particular room, such as kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on commercial or public spaces, designers frequently focus predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for hospitals and banks might concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, for example color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. They need to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking wall paper and carpeting to including Feng shui principles, Fairfield AL interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that contribute to their final designs.

Interior Design Training Programs

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There are four degree options available in interior design to acquire the training needed to launch your new profession in Fairfield AL. Your selection will no doubt be influenced by your career objectives in addition to the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, make certain to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in several states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum amount of training required to enter the field. They take roughly two years to finish and programs are available at a number of Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical facets of the business needed to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced design training after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mainly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are usually completed in three to five years.

To work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to study in the comfort of their Fairfield AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Studying online can be a good option for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For a number of students online programs may be the sole alternative if no interior design colleges are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated also. Just make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. If you have the dedication to obtain your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the perfect alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Designer Colleges

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Once you have selected the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can start the process of evaluating your school options. Location will be a critical factor, especially if the campus must be within commuting distance from your Fairfield AL residence. Of course if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will limit your choices as well. But choosing the least expensive college or the one that is closest to home are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other factors that you should look at also, including the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a few questions that you may want to address with the programs you are considering to get those answers in addition to others to help you examine and ultimately pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's essential to verify that the interior design school and program that you select has been accredited by either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous assessment of their programs and teachers. Just make sure that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are exceptional, it might also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Fairfield AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the College Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in some of those States requiring licensing, two or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. Therefore besides providing an excellent education, the Fairfield AL school you select should also provide the proper training to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some help in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are reviewing if they have a job placement program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent sign that the college and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design trade and its graduates are sought after. It might also signify that the college has a sizable network of Fairfield AL business relationships where they can place students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Available? Get in touch with the financial aid offices for the Fairfield AL colleges you are reviewing and ask what kind of aid they provide. A number of interior designer colleges offer financial aid to their incoming students. Some colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide help in securing grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. In some cases a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Fairfield AL programs you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Fairfield home, go to the campus and monitor a few classes. While there talk with a few students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Last, verify that the interior designer program you choose provides classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairfield AL, make sure that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, verify that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Learn More About Fairfield Interior Design Degrees

Choose in the Right Fairfield Interior Design Program

Picking the ideal interior design school is a critical first step toward starting your career in this artistic and fulfilling profession. Finding a school where you will receive your training and cultivate your talents in a specific area of study is a challenging task regardless of what field you have chosen. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are a number of things to think about before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design college are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. However it is still essential that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with superior training and your drive to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fairfield Alabama.