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How to Choose the Best Interior Design Course near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama interior designed living roomNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design school near Helena AL, it's time to begin 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 get the proper training to put your skills to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's very important that you perform the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each college that you are reviewing prior to making your final decision. But just where do you start? Many prospective students will launch their research by searching for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are relevant issues when making a determination, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation must be considered as well. We will cover those topics and other vital questions that you should be asking 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 choices are available.

Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

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Many people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The main difference between them is the level of training required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. However, conducting business as an interior designer requires formal training and in a number of 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 work together with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Helena AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often 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, for example bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Designing. When dealing with commercial or public areas, designers often focus predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. For example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be focused on over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may focus more on functionality over looks as the main concern.

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

Interior Designer Training Programs

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There are four degree options available in interior design to get the training needed to begin your new profession in Helena AL. Your selection will no doubt be influenced by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you opt to enroll in, be sure to select 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 covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum level of education required to enter the field. They take about 2 years to complete and programs are available at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that supply more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level position 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 specialty majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are normally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of field experience may be required before an applicant can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For anyone wishing' to study in the comfort of their Helena AL homes, there are online accredited interior design degrees. Attending classes online can be a great alternative for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For many students online programs may be the sole alternative if no interior design schools are within commuting 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 decreased or eliminated as well. Just make sure 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 colleges may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. If you have the discipline to acquire your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the right option for you.

What to Ask Interior Design Programs

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When you have decided on the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can start the task of reviewing your school options. Location will be an important factor, particularly if the school has to be within commuting distance from your Helena AL home. Naturally if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing 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 most affordable college or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other factors that you need to look at also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the colleges you are looking at to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you assess and subsequently choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior designer college and program that you select has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive evaluation 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 recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are exceptional, it might also help when securing financial aid 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 Prepare 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) examination as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in some of those States calling for licensing, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an exceptional education, the Helena AL college you select 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 working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and obtained your interior design certification, you will no doubt want some support in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job placement 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 regard within the interior design field and its students are sought after. It could also signify that the college has a significant network of Helena AL business contacts where they can refer students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Contact the financial aid offices for the Helena AL colleges you are evaluating and find out what type of support they provide. Many of interior designer programs offer financial aid to their new students. Some schools provide partial scholarships and others provide assistance in obtaining federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited college is imperative for qualification in most cases. In some cases a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its competitors because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Helena AL programs you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Helena home, go to the school and monitor a few classes. Take the opportunity to speak with a few students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, confirm that the interior design college you select provides classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly significant if you plan to continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, verify that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, family or illness.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Schools

Enroll in the Right Helena Interior Design College

Picking the ideal interior designer program is an important initial step toward launching your career in this creative and gratifying profession. Finding a college where you will obtain your training and cultivate your talents in a specific area of study is a challenging task regardless of what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire a higher education, there are a number of factors to consider before selecting a school, program, or course. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design college are both accredited and highly respected in the business. However it is still imperative that you carry out your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with excellent training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Helena Alabama.