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

Gardendale Alabama interior designed living room with viewNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program near Gardendale AL, it's time to start the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's essential that you get the appropriate training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's crucial that you perform the appropriate research in order to assess and compare each college that you are looking at before you make your ultimate choice. But exactly where do you begin? Many future students will begin their research by looking for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are relevant variables when making a determination, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation must be taken into account as well. We will address those issues and other important questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But before we do, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class choices are available.

Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

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Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The main distinction between them is the level of training required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, conducting business as an interior designer necessitates 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 work or residential areas attractive as well as functional. On many projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad areas that an interior designer in Gardendale AL can specialize in:

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

There are many areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. Designers 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, Gardendale AL interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that contribute to their final designs.

Interior Design Degree Options

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There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to receive the training required to begin your new career in Gardendale AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be influenced by your career objectives in addition to the money and time that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you choose to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated 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. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum level of education needed to enter the field. They take approximately two years to finish and programs are offered at numerous Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative components of the business required to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced design training after achieving a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer alternatives in specialty majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are primarily for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs vary in length but are usually completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required before an applicant can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Gardendale AL homes, there are accredited online interior design colleges. Attending classes online can be a great solution for those students that are working 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 convenient for the student. For some students online programs may be the only option if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated also. Just make sure that the school you enroll in is accredited by a respected accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the discipline to earn your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design college may be the right option for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Designer Colleges

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When you have chosen the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can start the task of analyzing your college options. Location will be an important factor, particularly if the campus has to be within commuting distance from your Gardendale AL home. Naturally if you are interested in attending an online school, or are prepared to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will limit your options also. But selecting the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to your house are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you need to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the program. Following are a list of questions that you may want to ask the colleges you are considering to get those answers as well as others to help you assess and ultimately select the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design College Accredited? It's important to confirm that the interior designer school and program that you enroll in has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just make sure that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are outstanding, it may also help when obtaining financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Gardendale AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the College Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, 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 in addition to a degree from an accredited program. And in some of those States requiring licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required as well. So aside from providing an exceptional education, the Gardendale AL college you choose should also provide the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will probably need some help in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job placement program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the college and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design profession and its graduates are in demand. It might also signify that the college has a sizable network of Gardendale AL business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the Gardendale AL schools you are evaluating and find out what type of assistance they provide. Many of interior design schools provide financial aid to their incoming students. Some schools 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 important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a school that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive little individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Gardendale AL colleges you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Gardendale home, go to the campus 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 experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior design college you choose provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially significant if you plan to continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Gardendale AL, verify that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative also. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Degrees

Enroll in the Best Gardendale Interior Design Program

Choosing the ideal interior design school is an important initial step toward launching your career in this artistic and rewarding occupation. Locating a school where you will receive your education and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a difficult task no matter what major you have chosen. As with any endeavor to attain a higher education, there are a number of things to consider before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design college are both accredited and highly respected in the field. However it is still imperative that you conduct your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Gardendale Alabama.