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How to Choose the Best Interior Design College near Gardendale Alabama

Gardendale Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program near Gardendale AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's imperative that you receive the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do require that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's vital that you perform the appropriate research so that you can evaluate and compare each program that you are looking at before you make your ultimate selection. But just where do you start? A number of prospective students will kick off their research by searching for interior design courses near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key issues when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account also. We will address those topics and other important 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 alternatives are available.

Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

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Often people confuse interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The key difference between the two is the level of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they possess a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, working as an interior designer requires formal training and in many 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 many projects they may team up with building engineers and architects. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Gardendale AL may specialize in:

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

There are many areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, for example color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From choosing carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui concepts, Gardendale AL interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that help bring about their ultimate creations.

Interior Designer Degree Options

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There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to receive the training required to launch your new profession in Gardendale AL. Your decision will no doubt be driven by your career goals in addition to the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in several states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum level of education required to enter the profession. They take roughly two years to finish and programs are available at a number of Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative components of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are primarily for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be called for before an applicant can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For students who to study in the comfort of their Gardendale AL homes, there are online accredited interior design schools. Studying online can be a good option for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For some students online colleges may be the sole alternative if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Added costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated also. Just be sure that the program you choose is accredited by a highly regarded 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 online or distance education. If you have the discipline to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the perfect option for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Schools

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When you have selected the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can start the task of reviewing your school options. Location will be an important factor, especially if the school must be within driving distance from your Gardendale AL home. Of course if you have decided on attending a school online, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will limit your options as well. But choosing the cheapest college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you should consider also, including the accreditation and reputation of the program. Following are a few concerns that you may want to address with the schools you are reviewing to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you examine and subsequently choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer Degree Program Accredited? It's essential to make sure that the interior designer school 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 obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous evaluation of their instructors and programs. Just verify that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are exceptional, it may also help when obtaining financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many Gardendale AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam as well as a degree from an accredited school. And in some of those States requiring licensing, at least 2 years of work experience may be required also. Therefore aside from furnishing an excellent education, the Gardendale AL program you enroll in should also provide the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination and comply with the minimum licensing requirements 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 design certification, you will probably want some support in finding your first position. Ask the schools that you are looking at if they have a job assistance program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent indication that the school and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design field and its graduates are sought after. It might also signify that the college has a sizable network of Gardendale AL business relationships where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Gardendale AL colleges you are reviewing and find out what type of aid they provide. Many of interior designer colleges provide financial aid to their incoming students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships while others provide help in securing grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that enrolling in an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Gardendale AL schools you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Gardendale home, visit the school and monitor a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to 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? Last, confirm that the interior design school you enroll in offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while attending school. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Gardendale AL, make sure that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative also. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Learn More About Gardendale Interior Design Programs

Choose in the Right Gardendale Interior Design Program

Picking the right interior designer school is an important initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and gratifying occupation. Locating a school where you will receive your education and develop your talents in a specific area of study is a daunting task no matter what major you have chosen. As with any endeavor to attain an advanced education, there are a number of things to consider before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, verify that the design college and program are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. However it is still important that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Gardendale Alabama.