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How to Select the Right Interior Designer Program near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Fairhope AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's important that you get the right training to put your skills to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's vital that you perform the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each college that you are looking at before you make your final selection. But just where do you begin? A number of future students will begin their research by searching for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are key issues when making a determination, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation must be taken into consideration as well. We will cover those issues and other vital questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But before we do, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training choices are offered.

Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

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Some people mistake interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The principal distinction between the two is the level of education required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer requires formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make living or work areas functional as well as attractive. On some occasions they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Fairhope AL can specialize in:

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

There are several areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, for example lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. They must be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui principles, Fairhope AL interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.

Interior Designer Training Programs

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There are four degree options available in interior design to receive the training necessary to begin your new profession in Fairhope AL. Your selection will no doubt be motivated by your career goals in addition to the time and money that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in several states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum level of training required to enter the profession. They take roughly 2 years to finish and programs are available at numerous Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can commonly obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that provide more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative aspects of the trade required 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 training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are largely for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are normally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and use 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 needed before an applicant can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For anyone wishing' to attend classes in the comfort of their Fairhope AL homes, there are accredited online interior design schools. Attending classes online can be a good solution for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For some students online programs may be the only option if no interior design programs are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated also. Just be sure that the program you select is accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the discipline to obtain your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design college may be the right alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Designer Colleges

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Once you have decided on the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of analyzing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, especially if the campus has to be within driving distance from your Fairhope AL home. Naturally if you have decided on attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The expense for tuition will narrow down your options as well. But choosing the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you should consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the schools you are looking at to obtain those answers as well as others to help you assess and ultimately pick the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design College Accredited? It's necessary to verify that the interior design program and college that you select has earned accreditation from 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). Schools earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous evaluation of their instructors and programs. Just verify that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are outstanding, it might also help when securing financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Fairhope AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several States do require that interior designers get 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 college. And in some of those States calling for licensing, a minimum of 2 years of occupational experience may be required also. Therefore besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Fairhope AL program you enroll in should also provide the appropriate education to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and earned your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some support in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job assistance program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent indication that the school and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design trade and its students are sought after. It might also signify that the college has a substantial network of Fairhope AL business relationships where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Fairhope AL schools you are evaluating and find out what kind of support they offer. A number of interior designer programs provide financial aid to their incoming students. Certain colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide help in obtaining federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that enrolling in an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its competitors because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classes? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive little individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Fairhope AL programs you are reviewing what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Fairhope home, visit the college and monitor a couple of classes. While there speak with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design school you choose offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while attending school. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Fairhope AL, make certain that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, verify that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Fairhope Interior Design Degrees

Enroll in the Right Fairhope Interior Design School

Choosing the right interior design program is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and fulfilling profession. Locating a school where you will obtain your education and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult job regardless of what field you have chosen. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are many things to think about before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. But it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fairhope Alabama.