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How to Choose the Right Interior Design Degree Program near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design school near Helena AL, it's time to begin the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's essential that you receive the proper 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 exam as well. So it's very important that you perform the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each school that you are looking at prior to making your ultimate choice. But where do you begin? Some prospective students will launch their research by searching for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant issues when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation need to be considered also. We will cover those issues and other crucial questions that you should be asking 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 training options are available.

Interior Design and Interior Decoration

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Some people confuse interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The key difference between the two is the level of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, doing business as an interior designer requires formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or residential areas functional as well as attractive. On some occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are two broad areas that an interior designer in Helena AL can specialize in:

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

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. Designers must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to integrating Feng shui principles, Helena AL interior designers employ a wide range of skills that contribute to their ultimate designs.

Interior Designer Training Programs

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There are four degree options available in interior design to acquire the training required to launch your new career in Helena AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be influenced by your career objectives as well as the time and money that you have to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum level of education needed to enter the profession. They take roughly two years to finish and programs are offered at many Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can usually obtain entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that supply more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical facets of the trade needed 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 two year programs furnish advanced design training after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer alternatives in specialty majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are largely for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree 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", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be needed before a candidate can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to study in the comfort of their Helena AL homes, there are online accredited interior design classes. 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 accessed on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For many students online colleges may be the sole option if no interior design programs are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just make certain that the program you select is accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also acquire accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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When 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 an important issue, particularly if the college needs to be within driving distance from your Helena AL home. Of course if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The cost of tuition will limit your options as well. But choosing the most affordable college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you need to consider also, such as 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 compare and ultimately select the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's necessary to make sure that the interior designer program and school that you choose has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most highly regarded in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous assessment of their instructors and programs. 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 verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are excellent, it might also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Helena AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, 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 program. And in some of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of work experience may be required also. Therefore aside from furnishing an excellent education, the Helena AL program you enroll in should also furnish the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination and satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will probably want some help in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are considering if they have a job placement program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good indication that the school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design profession and its graduates are sought after. It might also indicate that the school has a substantial network of Helena AL business relationships where they can place students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

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

How Big are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Helena AL programs you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Helena home, go to the school and attend a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, confirm that the interior designer program you enroll in offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly significant if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Helena AL, verify that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Colleges

Enroll in the Right Helena Interior Design School

Selecting the ideal interior design college is a critical first step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Locating a school where you will obtain your training and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a challenging job regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any endeavor to acquire a higher education, there are many factors to consider before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. But it is still essential that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to effectively assess and compare interior design programs so that you can make the right final selection. And with quality training and your desire to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Helena Alabama.