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How to Enroll in the Best Interior Designer Degree Program near Gulf Shores Alabama

Gulf Shores Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Gulf Shores 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 spaces, it's imperative that you get the proper training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's crucial that you carry out the proper research so that you can evaluate and compare each program that you are reviewing prior to making your ultimate selection. But exactly where do you begin? Some prospective students will kick off their research by looking for interior design programs near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are important factors when making a decision, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation should be taken into account as well. We will address those topics and other crucial questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are researching later in this article. But before we do, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training alternatives are offered.

Interior Decoration and Interior Design

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Often people confuse interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The principal distinction between them is the amount of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they possess a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. However, 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 as well as be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or residential areas attractive as well as functional. On some occasions they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are two general categories that an interior designer in Gulf Shores 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 particular room, for example kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on public or commercial spaces, designers frequently concentrate primarily on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. For instance, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be focused on over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may focus more on functionality over appearance as the primary concern.

There are several areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, including lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. They have to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From choosing carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui concepts, Gulf Shores AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that help bring about their ultimate designs.

Interior Designer Degree Options

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There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to receive the training necessary to begin your new profession in Gulf Shores AL. Your selection will no doubt be influenced by your career objectives in addition to the time and money that you have to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in several states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of training required to enter the profession. They take about 2 years to finish and programs are available at numerous Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that furnish more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical components of the business required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs supply advanced training in design after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialty majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mostly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are usually 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 colleges become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required before an applicant can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For students who to study in the comfort of their Gulf Shores AL homes, there are online accredited interior design degrees. Attending classes online can be a good solution for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For many students online colleges may be the sole alternative if no interior design programs are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Added costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated also. Just make certain that the college you select is accredited by a respected accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance 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 perfect alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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Once you have selected the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the process of assessing your college options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the college has to be within commuting distance from your Gulf Shores AL home. Of course if you have decided on attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The cost of tuition will limit your options also. But choosing the cheapest college or the one that is closest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other things that you should look at also, including the accreditation and reputation of the college. Below are a list of questions that you may want to ask the schools you are reviewing to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you examine and ultimately select the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's important to confirm that the interior designer school and program that you choose has been accredited by either a regional or national agency. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges receiving accreditation from the NASAD have gone through an extensive evaluation of their programs and teachers. Just confirm 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 training are excellent, it may also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Gulf Shores AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the College Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do mandate 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 college. And in several of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of professional experience may be required also. So aside from furnishing an excellent education, the Gulf Shores AL college you select should also provide the proper education to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will no doubt need some help in finding your first position. Ask the schools that you are looking at if they have a job placement 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 esteem within the interior design field and its students are sought after. It may also signify that the college has a sizable network of Gulf Shores AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Get in touch with the financial assistance offices for the Gulf Shores AL schools you are reviewing and find out what kind of support they offer. Many of interior designer schools provide financial aid to their new students. Various colleges offer partial scholarships and others provide assistance in securing grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a program that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Gulf Shores AL schools you are reviewing what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your Gulf Shores home, go to the college and attend a few classes. Take the opportunity to speak with a few 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 Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior designer school you enroll in provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Gulf Shores AL, confirm that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, check that is an alternative also. Finally, find out 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 Gulf Shores Interior Design Program

Choosing the ideal interior designer program is a critical initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and gratifying profession. Finding a school where you will receive your training and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a difficult job no matter what field you have selected. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are a number of points to consider before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. However it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the right final selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Gulf Shores Alabama.