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How to Select the Right Interior Design School near Jacksonville Alabama

Jacksonville Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer degree program near Jacksonville AL, it's time to start 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 get the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do require 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 carry out the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each program that you are considering before you make your final choice. But where do you begin? A number of prospective students will begin their research by searching for interior design programs 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. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation must be taken into account also. We will address those issues and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are looking at 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 choices are offered.

Interior Design and Interior Decoration

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Often people confuse interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The main distinction between the two is the level of training required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they possess a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, conducting business as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or residential spaces functional as well as attractive. On various occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Jacksonville AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers often work on new construction and existing homes. They can design basically any room of a house, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one specific room, for example kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on commercial or public areas, designers often focus primarily 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 hospitals and banks may focus more on functionality over looks as the primary concern.

There are several areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, including lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. They have to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui principles, Jacksonville AL interior designers employ a wide range of skills that contribute to their final creations.

Interior Designer Degree Options

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There are four degree options offered in interior design to get the training necessary to launch your new career in Jacksonville AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be driven by your career goals in addition to the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But regardless of which degree program you choose to enroll in, make sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in some states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of training needed to enter the profession. They take approximately 2 years to complete and programs are available at many Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that provide more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical components of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs supply advanced design training after acquiring a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialty majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mainly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally 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 called for before a candidate can take the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to study in the comfort of their Jacksonville AL homes, there are accredited online interior design degrees. Studying online can be a good solution for those students that are employed or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For some students online schools may be the sole option if no interior design schools are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be decreased or eliminated also. Just be sure that the college you pick is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, 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 discipline to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the ideal option for you.

Subjects to Ask Interior Designer Colleges

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Once you have decided on the interior design degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of assessing your college options. Location will be an important factor, especially if the college must be within commuting distance from your Jacksonville AL residence. Of course if you are interested in attending an online school, or are able to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The expense for tuition will decrease your options as well. But choosing the most affordable college or the one that is closest to home are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other things that you should consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the college. Below are a list of questions that you may want to ask the colleges you are considering to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you examine and subsequently choose the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's essential to make sure that the interior designer program and school that you choose has earned accreditation from either a national or regional agency. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive assessment of their instructors and programs. Just confirm that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are excellent, it may also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Jacksonville AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do mandate that interior designers become licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited program. And in several of those States requiring licensing, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required as well. So aside from furnishing an outstanding education, the Jacksonville AL school you enroll in should also provide the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ examination and comply with the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior design certification, you will no doubt want some help 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 higher rate is an excellent indication that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design trade and its students are sought after. It could also indicate that the college has a sizable network of Jacksonville AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Jacksonville AL schools you are looking at and ask what kind of aid they provide. Many of interior designer colleges offer financial assistance to their new students. Various schools provide partial scholarships while others provide assistance in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its competitors because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? 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 Jacksonville AL colleges you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Jacksonville home, visit the campus and attend a couple of classes. While there speak 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 Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design program you enroll in offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly significant if you will continue working while attending school. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Jacksonville AL, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, check that is an alternative also. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Courses

Choose in the Best Jacksonville Interior Design School

Selecting the right interior design school is an important initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and gratifying profession. Locating a school where you will obtain your education and cultivate your talents in a specific area of study is a difficult task regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive an advanced education, there are several factors to consider before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, make sure that the design college and program are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. But it is still imperative that you carry out your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the right final selection. And with superior training and your desire to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Jacksonville Alabama.