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How to Choose the Best Interior Design College near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design degree program near Helena 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 obtain the appropriate training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's crucial that you perform the appropriate research in order to assess and compare each program that you are reviewing prior to making your final choice. But exactly where do you start? A number of prospective students will start their research by searching for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key variables when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation must be taken into account also. We will discuss those issues and other crucial questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training choices are available.

Interior Design and Interior Decoration

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Many people mistake interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The main distinction between the two is the level of training required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, conducting business as an interior designer requires formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or living areas functional as well as attractive. On many occasions they may collaborate with building engineers and architects. There are two broad areas that an interior designer in Helena AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers frequently work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any area of a house, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they can specialize in designing one specific room, such as kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Designing. When working on public or commercial areas, designers frequently focus predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. For example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are spaces where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for banks and hospitals might concentrate 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, such as color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers need to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to create their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui principles, Helena AL interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that help bring about their final creations.

Interior Designer Degree Options

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There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to receive the training needed to launch your new career in Helena AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be influenced by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to devote 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 qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in several states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take approximately 2 years to finish and programs are offered at a number of 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 extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative components of the business required to become a designer. They are the minimum 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 achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are largely for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are usually completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states mandate that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be called for before an applicant can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For students who to attend classes in the convenience of their Helena AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a great alternative for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For a number of students online schools may be the only 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. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the school you select is accredited by a respected accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the discipline to earn your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the perfect alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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After you have chosen the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the task of analyzing your college options. Location will be an important issue, particularly if the college must be within driving distance from your Helena AL residence. Naturally if you have decided on attending a school online, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will narrow down your options also. But selecting the most affordable school or the one that is closest to home are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other issues that you need to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a few questions that you may want to address with the colleges you are considering to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you examine and subsequently choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's imperative to verify that the interior designer school and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous assessment of their programs and teachers. Just make sure that both the college and the degree program 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 education are excellent, it might also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Helena AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, 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 as well as a degree from an accredited college. And in some of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of work experience may be required also. So besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Helena AL program you enroll in should also furnish the suitable instruction to pass the NCIDQ examination and fulfill the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and received your interior design certification, you will probably need some assistance in finding your first job. 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 an excellent indication that the college and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design field and its graduates are in demand. It could also indicate that the college has a sizable network of Helena AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Available? Contact the financial aid offices for the Helena AL schools you are evaluating and find out what kind of support they offer. A number of interior design programs offer financial aid to their new students. Various colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide help in obtaining grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that selecting an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Big are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive little individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Helena AL programs you are looking at what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Helena home, go to the college 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 styles are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior designer college you choose offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly significant if you plan to continue working while going to college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, confirm that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, check that is an option also. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Helena Interior Design Colleges

Choose in the Best Helena Interior Design Program

Selecting the right interior designer college is a critical first step toward launching your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Finding a school where you will obtain your education and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a challenging task regardless of what major you have selected. As with any undertaking to receive an advanced education, there are a number of factors to think about before choosing a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. But it is still important that you carry out your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Helena Alabama.