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How to Select the Best Interior Design Degree Program near Gulf Shores Alabama

Gulf Shores Alabama interior designed living roomNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer college near Gulf Shores AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's essential that you get the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's very important that you carry out the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each program that you are considering before you make your ultimate selection. But just where do you start? Many future students will kick off their research by looking for interior design courses near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are relevant issues when making a decision, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation should be considered also. We will discuss those issues and other vital questions that you must ask 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 options are offered.

Interior Design and Interior Decoration

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Some people mistake interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The principal difference between the two is the level 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, conducting business as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential areas functional as well as attractive. On various occasions they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are two general categories that an interior designer in Gulf Shores AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers typically work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any room of the home, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one specific room, for instance kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on public or commercial areas, designers normally 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 banks and hospitals might focus more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

There are several areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to learn, including lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. Designers have to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to create their visions. From picking wall paper and carpeting to incorporating Feng shui concepts, Gulf Shores AL interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degrees

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There are 4 degree alternatives offered in interior design to obtain the training necessary to start your new profession in Gulf Shores AL. Your decision will no doubt be motivated by your career goals in addition to the money and time that you have 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 needed in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in a number of states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum amount of training required to enter the field. They take approximately 2 years to complete and programs are offered at many Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can normally obtain entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative facets of the business needed to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced design training after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialized majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mainly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs differ in length but are generally completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of professional experience may be needed before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For anyone wishing' to study in the convenience of their Gulf Shores AL homes, there are online accredited interior design colleges. Attending classes online can be an excellent option for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For a number of students online programs 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. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be decreased or eliminated also. Just make sure that the program you pick is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. 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 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 wish to earn, you can start the process of assessing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the school has to be within commuting distance from your Gulf Shores AL home. Obviously if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will narrow down your options also. But choosing the least expensive college or the one that is closest to home are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you need to look at also, including the reputation and accreditation of the college. Below are a few concerns that you may want to address with the schools you are looking at to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you examine and subsequently select the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's important to verify that the interior design program and school 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 receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous assessment of their programs and teachers. Just verify 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 college and the quality of the training are exceptional, it might also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Gulf Shores AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the Program Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some States do mandate that interior designers become 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 school. And in some of those States calling for licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required also. So in addition to providing an excellent education, the Gulf Shores AL college you enroll in should also provide the proper instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy 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 attained your interior design certification, you will probably want some assistance in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job assistance program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good sign that the college and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design profession and its graduates are in demand. It may also signify that the college has a significant network of Gulf Shores AL business connections where they can place students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the Gulf Shores AL colleges you are reviewing and ask what type of support they offer. A number of interior designer programs offer financial assistance to their incoming students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships while others provide support in securing federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that enrolling in an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a program that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Gulf Shores AL programs you are considering 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 find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design school you enroll in provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Gulf Shores AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative also. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Degrees

Choose in the Right Gulf Shores Interior Design College

Choosing the ideal interior design college is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this creative and gratifying occupation. Searching for a college where you will receive your education and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a challenging task regardless of what major you have selected. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are many things to think about before choosing a school, program, or course. At a minimum, make sure that the design college and program are both accredited and highly esteemed in the profession. However it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to effectively assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right final selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Gulf Shores Alabama.