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How to Select the Best Interior Design Program near Hamilton Alabama

Hamilton Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Hamilton AL, it's time to start the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's imperative that you obtain the appropriate training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam 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 final decision. But where do you start? Some prospective students will start their research by searching for interior design schools near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant issues when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will cover those topics and other crucial questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But first, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training choices are available.

Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design

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Many people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The principal difference between them is the amount of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. However, working as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living areas attractive as well as functional. On various projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Hamilton AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers frequently work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design essentially any room of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, for example kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with commercial or public spaces, designers often concentrate predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. For instance, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for banks and hospitals might focus more on functionality over appearance as the primary consideration.

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

Interior Design Degree Options

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There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to get the training required to launch your new profession in Hamilton AL. Your decision will undoubtedly be influenced by your career objectives in addition to the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take 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 available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of education needed to enter the profession. They take approximately 2 years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical components of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced training in design after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer alternatives in specialized majors in general areas such 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 desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs differ in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be called for before a candidate can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to study in the comfort of their Hamilton AL homes, there are accredited online interior design classes. Attending classes online can be a good solution for those students that are working 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 schools may be the sole alternative if no interior design schools are within driving 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 reduced or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the program you choose is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also obtain 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 option for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Schools

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After you have selected the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of analyzing your school options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the college must be within commuting distance from your Hamilton AL home. Naturally if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will limit your choices also. But selecting the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to home are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other variables that you should look at also, including the accreditation and reputation of the school. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the programs you are looking at to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you examine and ultimately pick the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design College Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior design school and program that you select 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 earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just confirm that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are excellent, it might also help when obtaining financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Hamilton AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited school. And in several of those States mandating licensing, at least 2 years of occupational experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an outstanding education, the Hamilton AL college you select should also provide the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ examination and fulfill the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will no doubt want some help in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent sign that the college and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design field and its students are sought after. It may also indicate that the school has a significant network of Hamilton AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Contact the financial aid departments for the Hamilton AL colleges you are evaluating and ask what type of aid they provide. A number of interior design colleges offer financial aid to their new students. Various colleges offer partial scholarships while others provide support in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive limited individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Hamilton AL schools you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Hamilton home, visit the school and sit in on a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, verify that the interior designer school you choose offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is particularly significant if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Hamilton AL, confirm that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, check that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Degrees

Enroll in the Right Hamilton Interior Design Program

Choosing the ideal interior designer college is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and gratifying profession. Finding a school where you will receive your training and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a difficult task regardless of what field you have selected. As with any endeavor to acquire a higher education, there are a number of things to think about before enrolling in a course, program or school. At a minimum, check that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the business. However it is still imperative that you conduct your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the remaining recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate 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 achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Hamilton Alabama.