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How to Pick the Best Interior Design School near Hamilton Alabama

Hamilton Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design school near Hamilton AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's important that you receive the appropriate training to put your talents to work. And since a number of states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's very important that you carry out the proper research so that you can analyze and compare each school that you are reviewing prior to making your ultimate decision. But where do you start? A number of prospective students will kick off their research by searching for interior design schools near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are important variables when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into account also. We will cover those topics 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 talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training options are offered.

Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

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Some people mistake interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The primary distinction between the two is the amount of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, working as an interior designer requires a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or living areas functional as well as attractive. On many occasions they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Hamilton AL may specialize in:

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

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

Interior Designer Degree Options

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There are 4 degree options available in interior design to receive the training required to start your new profession in Hamilton AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be motivated by your career objectives 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, be sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of training required to enter the profession. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are offered at many Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can usually obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that provide more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum degree 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 design training after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialized majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are largely for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs differ in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

In order to work as a professional and adopt 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 called for before a candidate can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to study in the comfort of their Hamilton AL homes, there are accredited online interior design colleges. Studying online can be an excellent option for those students that are employed or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For some students online programs may be the sole option if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated also. Just make certain that the college 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the discipline to obtain your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the ideal alternative for you.

Subjects to Ask Interior Design Programs

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When you have decided on the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the task of evaluating your college options. Location will be an important factor, particularly if the campus needs to be within driving distance from your Hamilton AL residence. Of course if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your choices as well. But selecting the cheapest school or the one that is nearest to home are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other factors that you should look at as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Following are a few questions that you may want to ask the programs you are looking at to get those answers in addition to others to help you examine and subsequently choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's important to make sure that the interior designer program and college that you select has earned accreditation from either a national or regional agency. One of the most highly regarded in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through an extensive evaluation of their instructors and programs. Just verify that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are exceptional, it may also help when obtaining financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, many Hamilton AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the Program Ready you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several States do mandate that interior designers become licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in some of those States requiring licensing, a minimum of 2 years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an exceptional education, the Hamilton AL program you enroll in should also provide the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ examination and comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and obtained your interior design certification, you will probably want some assistance in finding your first position. Ask the colleges 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 a good indication that the college and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design field and its graduates are in demand. It could also signify that the college has a sizable network of Hamilton AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Hamilton AL colleges you are reviewing and ask what kind of assistance they provide. A number of interior design schools provide financial assistance to their new students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships while others provide assistance in acquiring federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a school that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Small are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive little individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Hamilton AL colleges you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Hamilton home, go to the school and attend a couple of classes. While there speak with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, make certain that the interior design school you choose provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Hamilton AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an alternative also. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Schools

Choose in the Right Hamilton Interior Design Program

Selecting the right interior design college is a crucial initial step toward launching 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 daunting task no matter what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are several factors to consider before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design school are both accredited and highly respected in the profession. However it is still important that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Hamilton Alabama.