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How to Find the Right Interior Designer Program near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer school near Helena AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's important that you get the proper training to put your talents to work. And since several states do require that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's essential that you do the appropriate research so that you can analyze and compare each program that you are looking at before you make your final selection. But exactly where do you begin? Many prospective students will begin their research by looking for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are important issues when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation should be considered as well. We will cover those issues 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 options are offered.

Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

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

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

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, including color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. Designers have to 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 final designs.

Interior Designer Training Programs

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There are four degree options offered in interior design to acquire the training needed to start your new profession in Helena AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be influenced by your career goals as well as the money and time that you have to invest in your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in several states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of training required to enter the field. They take approximately 2 years to finish and programs are available at a number of Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical aspects of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs provide advanced design training after achieving a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialty 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 the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are mostly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs differ in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be called for before a candidate can take the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For anyone wishing' to study in the comfort of their Helena AL homes, there are accredited online interior design degrees. Attending classes online can be a good option for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed 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 colleges are within commuting 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 decreased or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the program you enroll in is accredited by a respected accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also acquire accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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When you have selected the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of analyzing your college options. Location will be an important factor, especially if the school needs to be within driving distance from your Helena AL home. Naturally if you have decided on attending a school online, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your choices also. But picking the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you need to look at also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the programs you are looking at to get those answers as well as others in order to help you examine and ultimately pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's imperative to confirm that the interior design program and school that you enroll in has been accredited by either a regional or national agency. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding evaluation of their instructors and programs. Just confirm that both the degree program and the college 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 outstanding, it might also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, many Helena AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the College Prepare you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, a number of 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, two or more years of work experience may be required also. Therefore besides furnishing an exceptional education, the Helena AL program you select should also provide the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ exam and meet the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and received your interior design certification, you will no doubt want some support in finding your first position. Ask the programs 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 sign that the school and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design profession and its graduates are sought after. It might also indicate that the college has a substantial network of Helena AL business contacts where they can refer students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Helena AL schools you are reviewing and ask what type of support they provide. A number of interior design schools offer financial aid to their new students. Some schools provide partial scholarships and others provide assistance in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Helena AL colleges you are reviewing what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Helena home, go to the college and monitor a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior design school you choose provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly significant if you plan to continue working while going to school. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, make certain that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an option as well. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Find Out More About Helena Interior Design Schools

Choose in the Best Helena Interior Design College

Choosing the ideal interior design school is a critical first step toward starting your career in this artistic and gratifying occupation. Finding a school where you will receive your training and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a difficult job regardless of what major you have selected. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are many points to consider before selecting a program, course or school. At a minimum, verify that the program and design college are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. But it is still essential that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to effectively assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with superior training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Helena Alabama.