How to Select the Best Interior Designer School near Jacksonville Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer school near Jacksonville AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's important that you obtain the proper training to put your talents to work. And since some states do require that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing examination also. So it's vital that you perform the proper research so that you can assess and compare each school that you are looking at prior to making your final selection. But where do you start? A number of potential students will kick off their research by searching for interior design schools near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are key issues when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation should be considered as well. We will address those topics and other crucial questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training options are available.
Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design
Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The primary distinction between the two is the amount of education required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, conducting business as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential spaces attractive as well as functional. On various occasions they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Jacksonville AL may specialize in:
- Residential Design. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any room of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they may specialize in designing one specific room, for example bathrooms or kitchens.
- Commercial Design. When dealing with public or commercial spaces, designers normally focus predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be focused on over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may focus more on functionality over looks as the primary concern.
There are numerous areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, such as color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. They need to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to create their visions. From selecting carpeting and wall paper to including Feng shui concepts, Jacksonville AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that contribute to their final creations.
Interior Design Degree Options
There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to acquire the training needed to start your new profession in Jacksonville AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be driven by your career goals as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But regardless of which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in some states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.
- Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take about 2 years to finish and programs are offered at a number of Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level positions as design assistants.
- Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative facets of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
- Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced design training after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialty majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
- Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are normally completed in three to five years.
To work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states mandate that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be called for before an applicant can take the licensing examination.
Interior Design Online Programs
For individuals who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Jacksonville AL homes, there are online accredited interior design programs. Studying online can be an excellent option for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For many students online schools may be the only alternative if no interior design programs are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, 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 education. If you have the discipline to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design college may be the ideal alternative for you.
What to Ask Interior Designer Programs
Once you have chosen the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of assessing your school options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the college must be within commuting distance from your Jacksonville AL residence. Obviously if you are interested in attending a school online, or are able to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will narrow down your choices also. But selecting the cheapest school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other things that you should consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Following are a few questions that you may want to ask the colleges you are considering to get those answers as well as others in order to help you assess and ultimately select the right degree program.
Is the Interior Design College Accredited? It's imperative to verify that the interior designer school and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a regional or national organization. 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 undergone a demanding assessment of their programs and teachers. Just verify 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 confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are exceptional, it may also help when securing financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Jacksonville AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.
Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some 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 school. And in several of those States calling for licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an excellent education, the Jacksonville AL school you enroll in should also provide the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and attained your interior design certification, you will no doubt need some help in finding your first job. 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 indication that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design field and its students are in demand. It might also indicate that the school has a significant network of Jacksonville AL business contacts where they can place students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.
Is Financial Aid Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Jacksonville AL schools you are looking at and ask what kind of support they offer. Many of interior designer colleges offer financial aid to their incoming students. Some schools offer partial scholarships while others provide help in obtaining grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that selecting an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial aid.
How Small are the Classes? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Jacksonville AL colleges you are considering what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Jacksonville home, visit the campus and sit in on 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 philosophies are and what their credentials are in interior design.
Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior design college you choose provides classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Jacksonville AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose in the Best Jacksonville Interior Design College
Picking the right interior design program is a crucial first step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Finding a college where you will receive your education and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a daunting task regardless of what field you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire a higher education, there are many factors to think about before selecting a school, program, or course. At a minimum, confirm that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the business. However it is still important that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Jacksonville Alabama.