How to Choose the Best Interior Designer Degree Program near Gulf Shores Alabama
Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior design college near Gulf Shores AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's essential that you receive the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's essential that you carry out the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each school that you are considering prior to making your ultimate decision. But exactly where do you start? A number of future students will start their research by searching for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are relevant variables when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation need to be considered also. We will cover those issues and other vital questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But before we do, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class choices are available.
Interior Decoration and Interior Design
Often people mistake interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The key difference between the two is the amount of training required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. However, conducting business as an interior designer requires formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or residential areas attractive as well as functional. On some projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Gulf Shores AL may specialize in:
- Residential Design. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design essentially any area of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, for example kitchens or bathrooms.
- Commercial Designing. When dealing with commercial or public areas, designers normally focus primarily on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may concentrate more on functionality over looks as the main concern.
There are various areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to learn, for example color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. They need to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to create their visions. From choosing carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui principles, Gulf Shores AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that contribute to their final designs.
Interior Designer Degree Options
There are four degree options offered in interior design to obtain the training necessary to begin your new career in Gulf Shores AL. Your choice will no doubt be motivated by your career goals as well as the money and time that you have to invest in your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.
- Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum amount of training needed to enter the profession. They take roughly two years to complete and programs are offered at many Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can typically obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
- Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical facets of the business required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
- Master's Degree. These 2 year programs provide advanced training in design after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialty majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
- Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are primarily for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs vary in length but are normally completed in 3 to 5 years.
In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can sit for the licensing examination.
Interior Design Online Programs
For individuals who wish to study in the comfort of their Gulf Shores AL homes, there are online accredited interior design schools. Studying online can be a good option for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For a number of students online colleges may be the sole option 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 study materials or commuting may be decreased or eliminated also. Just be sure that the program you enroll in is accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also acquire accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the dedication to acquire your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the right option for you.
Subjects to Ask Interior Designer Programs
After you have selected the interior design degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of evaluating your college options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the college must be within commuting distance from your Gulf Shores AL home. Obviously 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 fee for tuition will limit your choices as well. But selecting the most affordable college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the programs you are considering to obtain those answers as well as others to help you compare and subsequently select the ideal degree program.
Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's essential to make sure that the interior designer college and program that you enroll in has earned accreditation from either a regional or national agency. One of the most highly regarded in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive evaluation of their instructors and programs. Just confirm 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 establish that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are exceptional, it may also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Gulf Shores AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.
Does the Program Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in addition to a degree from an accredited school. And in some of those States calling for licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required also. So aside from furnishing an exceptional education, the Gulf Shores AL college you select should also furnish the proper instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum licensing requirements 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 design certification, you will probably need some help in finding your first position. Ask the colleges 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 sign that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design profession and its graduates are sought after. It might also signify that the school has a large network of Gulf Shores AL business connections where they can refer students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Get in touch with the financial assistance offices for the Gulf Shores AL schools you are evaluating and ask what type of aid they offer. A number of interior designer schools provide financial aid to their incoming students. Various colleges offer partial scholarships while others provide assistance in securing grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited school is essential for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a college that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.
How Small are the Classrooms? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive limited individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Gulf Shores AL colleges you are considering what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Gulf Shores home, visit the school and sit in on a couple of classes. While there talk with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their experiences have been in interior design.
Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior designer school you select provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Gulf Shores AL, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, verify that is an option as well. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.
Choose in the Best Gulf Shores Interior Design School
Picking the ideal interior design college is a critical initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and fulfilling profession. Searching for a school where you will obtain your training and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult task regardless of what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to receive an advanced education, there are several factors to think about before selecting a program, course or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design college are both accredited and highly esteemed in the profession. But it is still essential that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your determination to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Gulf Shores Alabama.