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How to Select the Best Interior Designer Program near Hartselle Alabama

Hartselle Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design college near Hartselle AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's important that you obtain the proper training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do require that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's essential that you carry out the proper research so that you can assess and compare each school that you are looking at prior to making your final choice. But where do you start? Many prospective 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 key variables when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be considered also. We will discuss 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 class options are offered.

Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

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Often people mistake interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The principal difference between them is the amount of training required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, conducting business as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in many 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 functional as well as attractive. On some occasions they may team up with building engineers and architects. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Hartselle AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. 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 specific room, for example kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on public or commercial spaces, designers often focus predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. As an example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for hospitals and banks might focus more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

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

Interior Designer Degree Programs

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There are 4 degree options available in interior design to get the training needed to begin your new profession in Hartselle AL. Your selection will no doubt be driven by your career goals as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, make sure to select 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 discussed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum amount of training required to enter the field. They take about 2 years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can commonly obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative components of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialized majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are mainly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree 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", a number of states require that graduates of accredited degree programs 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 attend classes in the comfort of their Hartselle AL homes, there are accredited online interior design degrees. Studying online can be a great solution for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For some students online programs 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. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated also. Just make sure that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized 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 education. If you have the dedication to obtain your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design school may be the ideal alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Design Schools

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Once you have decided on the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can start the process of evaluating your school options. Location will be an important issue, particularly if the school must be within commuting distance from your Hartselle AL residence. Naturally if you are interested in attending a school online, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will narrow down your options also. But choosing the cheapest college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you should consider also, such as the accreditation and reputation of the program. Below are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the colleges you are reviewing to get those answers in addition to others to help you compare and ultimately choose the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's necessary to verify that the interior designer school and program that you select has earned accreditation from either a regional or national agency. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous assessment of their programs and instructors. Just make sure 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 school and the quality of the education are excellent, it may also help when obtaining financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Hartselle AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States calling for licensing, at least 2 years of occupational experience may be required as well. Therefore besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Hartselle AL college you choose should also provide the suitable instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and meet the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior design certification, you will undoubtedly need some assistance in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are considering if they have a job assistance program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent indication that the school and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design trade and its graduates are sought after. It may also indicate that the college has a significant network of Hartselle AL business connections where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Available? Contact the financial assistance offices for the Hartselle AL colleges you are looking at and find out what kind of support they offer. A number of interior design schools offer financial assistance to their incoming students. Some schools offer partial scholarships while others provide assistance in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a school that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Small are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Hartselle AL schools you are reviewing what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Hartselle home, visit the campus and sit in on a few classes. While there speak with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Last, confirm that the interior design program you enroll in offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Hartselle AL, confirm that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, check that is an alternative also. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Learn More About Hartselle Interior Design Degrees

Choose in the Best Hartselle Interior Design Program

Picking the right interior design program is an important initial step toward launching your career in this creative and gratifying occupation. Searching for a school where you will obtain your training and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a challenging job regardless of what field you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are many points to think about before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design college 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 rest of the recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Hartselle Alabama.