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How to Find the Right Interior Designer Degree Program near Gulf Shores Alabama

Gulf Shores Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design college near Gulf Shores AL, it's time to begin the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's essential that you get the proper training to put your skills to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's very important that you perform the proper research so that you can analyze and compare each school that you are considering before you make your final selection. But just where do you begin? A number of potential students will start their research by looking for interior design schools near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key variables when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation should be taken into account also. We will address those topics and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are looking at 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 Design and Interior Decoration

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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 general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, doing business as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make living or work spaces attractive as well as functional. On many 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 Designing. Interior Designers frequently work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any area of the home, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one specific room, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Designing. When working on public or commercial areas, designers often concentrate predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. As an example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are spaces where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the primary consideration.

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

Interior Design Degree Options

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There are four degree options available in interior design to acquire the training required to launch your new career in Gulf Shores AL. Your choice will no doubt be driven by your career goals in addition to the time and money that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in several states. More will be covered on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum amount of education needed to enter the profession. They take about two years to finish and programs are offered at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that supply more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative facets 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 2 year programs supply advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer alternatives in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mostly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs differ in length but are typically completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of professional experience may be called for before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to study in the convenience of their Gulf Shores AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Attending classes online can be an excellent option for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For many students online schools may be the sole alternative if no interior design colleges are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Added costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated also. Just make certain that the program you pick is accredited by a respected accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also acquire accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. If you have the dedication to acquire your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design college may be the ideal alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Designer Programs

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Now that you have decided on the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of evaluating your college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the campus has to be within commuting distance from your Gulf Shores AL home. Obviously if you have decided on attending a school online, or are prepared to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The expense for tuition will decrease your options also. But choosing the most affordable college or the one that is closest to your house are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should consider also, including the accreditation and reputation of the school. Below are a few questions that you may want to address with the programs you are looking at to get those answers in addition to others in order to help you examine and subsequently pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's imperative to confirm that the interior designer program and school that you select has been accredited by either a national or regional organization. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding assessment of their teachers and programs. Just make sure that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are exceptional, it might also help when applying for financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many Gulf Shores AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the College Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of 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 several of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of work experience may be required also. So aside from providing an outstanding education, the Gulf Shores AL college you select should also provide the proper education to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and received your interior designer certification, you will no doubt need some assistance in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent sign that the college and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design trade and its students are sought after. It could also signify that the college has a significant network of Gulf Shores AL business relationships where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Contact the financial aid departments for the Gulf Shores AL schools you are looking at and find out what type of support they offer. A number of interior designer programs offer financial aid to their new students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships and others provide help in obtaining federal student loans or grants. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited school is essential for qualification in most cases. In some cases a college that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Small are the Classes? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Gulf Shores AL colleges you are reviewing what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Gulf Shores home, visit the school and attend a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior designer college you enroll in offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Gulf Shores AL, verify that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative as well. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Degrees

Enroll in the Right Gulf Shores Interior Design Program

Choosing the right interior design college is a critical first step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Searching for a school where you will obtain your education and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult task no matter what major you have chosen. As with any endeavor to receive an advanced education, there are many factors to think about before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, confirm that the design college and program are both accredited and highly regarded in the field. However it is still imperative that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to effectively review and compare interior design schools so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your determination to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Gulf Shores Alabama.