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How to Select the Right Interior Designer College near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer school near Fairhope AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's important that you get the appropriate training to put your skills to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's vital that you perform the appropriate research in order to evaluate and compare each college that you are looking at prior to making your final selection. But just where do you start? Some prospective students will kick off their research by searching for interior design programs near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant variables when making a decision, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation must be considered also. We will discuss those issues and other important questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But before we do, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class choices are offered.

Interior Design compared to Interior Decoration

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Some people confuse interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The key difference between the two is the amount of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living spaces attractive as well as functional. On many occasions they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Fairhope AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any room of a house, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they can specialize in designing one specific room, for instance bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with commercial or public areas, designers frequently concentrate predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but pay attention to both. For example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are spaces where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may focus more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. Designers have to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to including Feng shui concepts, Fairhope AL interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degrees

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There are 4 degree alternatives available in interior design to obtain the training required to begin your new career in Fairhope AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives in addition to the time and money that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in several states. More will be discussed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take roughly two years to complete and programs are offered at a number of Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative components of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced design training after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialized majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are mostly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

In order to work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can take the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Fairhope AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Studying online can be an excellent solution for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For a number of students online schools may be the sole option if no interior design colleges are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the school you choose is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the discipline to acquire your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Design Programs

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After you have decided on the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can begin the process of analyzing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, especially if the school has to be within commuting distance from your Fairhope AL home. Of course if you are interested in attending a school online, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will limit your options also. But choosing the most affordable college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the college. Below are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the colleges you are reviewing to obtain those answers as well as others to help you examine and ultimately pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior design college and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a regional or national agency. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just verify that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are exceptional, it might also help when securing financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Fairhope AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the College Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination as well as a degree from an accredited school. And in some of those States calling for licensing, two or more years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an excellent education, the Fairhope AL college you select should also furnish the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will probably need some assistance in finding your first job. Ask the schools that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good indication that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design profession and its graduates are in demand. It might also indicate that the school has a sizable network of Fairhope AL business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Contact the financial aid offices for the Fairhope AL schools you are reviewing and find out what kind of assistance they offer. A number of interior designer schools provide financial aid to their incoming students. Various schools offer partial scholarships and others provide help in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited college is important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a program that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classrooms? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive little individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Fairhope AL colleges you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Fairhope home, go to the school and sit in on a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with a few students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Last, make certain that the interior designer school you enroll in offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly significant if you plan to continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairhope AL, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Courses

Enroll in the Best Fairhope Interior Design College

Selecting the ideal interior design college is an important first step toward starting your career in this artistic and gratifying occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your training and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a challenging task regardless of what field you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are several points to think about before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design college are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. But it is still essential that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the right ultimate selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fairhope Alabama.