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How to Choose the Best Interior Design Program near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer school near Helena AL, it's time to start the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's essential that you obtain the proper training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's essential that you do the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each college that you are looking at prior to making your ultimate choice. But just where do you begin? A number of potential students will begin their research by looking for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant issues when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation must be taken into consideration also. We will address those topics and other crucial questions that you must ask 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 Decoration vs Interior Design

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Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The principal difference between them is the level of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in numerous 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 spaces attractive as well as functional. On some projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Helena AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers typically work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design essentially any area of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with public or commercial spaces, designers often 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 hospitals and banks might focus more on functionality over appearance as the main concern.

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, for example lighting, color schemes, furniture and acoustics. Designers must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to create their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to including Feng shui concepts, Helena AL interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that help bring about their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degree Programs

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There are four degree alternatives offered in interior design to receive the training required to begin your new profession in Helena AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives as well as the time and money that you have to invest in your education. But no matter which degree program you opt 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 mandated in several states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum amount of education needed to enter the field. They take roughly 2 years to finish and programs are available at many Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can typically obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative components of the business needed to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level position 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 alternatives in specialized majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are largely for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs vary in length but are usually 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 degree programs become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of field experience may be required before an applicant can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For anyone wishing' to study in the convenience of their Helena AL homes, there are online accredited interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a good option for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For a number of students online programs may be the sole alternative if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an additional 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 also. Just be sure that the program you select is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also obtain 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 structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the perfect option for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Designer Schools

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Once you have chosen the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can begin the task of reviewing your college options. Location will be an important factor, particularly if the campus has to be within driving distance from your Helena AL home. Obviously if you have decided on attending a school online, or are prepared to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will decrease your options as well. But selecting the cheapest college or the one that is closest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you should look at also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Following are a few questions that you may want to ask the schools you are reviewing to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you assess and ultimately select the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design College Accredited? It's important to make sure that the interior designer program and school that you choose has been accredited by either a regional or national agency. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive evaluation 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 recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are exceptional, it might also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Helena AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in addition to a degree from an accredited college. And in some of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of occupational experience may be required also. Therefore in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Helena AL school you select should also furnish the suitable education 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 earned your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some assistance in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are looking at if they have a job assistance program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the school and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design profession and its students are sought after. It could also signify that the school has a significant network of Helena AL business connections where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Contact the financial aid departments for the Helena AL schools you are evaluating and ask what kind of assistance they offer. Many of interior design programs provide financial aid to their new students. Various schools offer partial scholarships while others provide assistance in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that enrolling in an accredited program is essential for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Helena AL programs you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Helena home, go to the campus and sit in on a few classes. While there speak with a few students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Last, confirm that the interior designer school you select offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly important if you plan to continue working while going to college. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Helena AL, verify that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, sickness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Colleges

Choose in the Right Helena Interior Design Program

Picking the ideal interior designer program is a crucial first step toward launching your career in this artistic and fulfilling occupation. Finding a college where you will receive your education and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult task no matter what field you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are many points 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 carry out your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Helena Alabama.