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How to Select the Right Interior Designer Degree Program near Leeds Alabama

Leeds Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer school near Leeds 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 important that you receive the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do require that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's very important that you perform the proper research so that you can evaluate and compare each school that you are considering before you make your final choice. But exactly where do you start? Many prospective students will start their research by looking for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are important issues when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account also. We will address those issues and other important questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are researching later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training alternatives are available.

Interior Design compared to Interior Decoration

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Some people confuse interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The primary distinction between the two is the amount of training required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, doing business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or residential areas functional as well as attractive. On various occasions they may collaborate with building engineers and architects. There are two general areas that an interior designer in Leeds AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. 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 may specialize in designing one specific room, for instance kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with commercial or public areas, designers frequently focus predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may focus more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

There are numerous areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, including color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. They must be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to create their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to incorporating Feng shui principles, Leeds AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that help bring about their final designs.

Interior Design Degree Programs

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There are four degree alternatives offered in interior design to get the training required to begin your new career in Leeds AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be influenced 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 decide to enroll in, be sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in some states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum level of education needed to enter the profession. They take approximately two years to finish and programs are available at a number of Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical components of the business needed to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialty majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs differ in length but are generally completed in three to five years.

To work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be needed before a candidate can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For students who to attend classes in the comfort of their Leeds AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Studying online can be a good alternative for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For many students online colleges may be the only option if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Added costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be decreased or eliminated as well. Just make certain that the school you choose is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the discipline to acquire your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design school may be the perfect option for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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After you have decided on the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of analyzing your school options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the campus must be within commuting distance from your Leeds AL home. Of course if you have decided on attending a school online, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The expense for tuition will decrease your options also. But picking the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should look at also, such as the accreditation and reputation of the college. Below are a list of questions that you may want to ask the colleges you are reviewing to get those answers as well as others in order to help you compare and subsequently select the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's imperative to confirm that the interior design college and program that you choose has been accredited by either a regional or national organization. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools receiving accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous evaluation of their instructors and programs. Just verify that both the degree program and the college 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 education are outstanding, it might also help when applying for financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Leeds AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the College Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, a number of States do mandate that interior designers get licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited school. And in some of those States mandating licensing, at least 2 years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore besides providing an outstanding education, the Leeds AL school you enroll in should also provide the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and received your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some help in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent sign that the college and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design profession and its graduates are in demand. It may also indicate that the school has a significant network of Leeds AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Contact the financial aid offices for the Leeds AL colleges you are reviewing and find out what kind of assistance they provide. A number of interior design schools offer financial aid to their new students. Some colleges provide partial scholarships and others provide assistance in acquiring grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited program is essential for qualification in most cases. In some cases a program that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Big 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. Find out from the Leeds AL colleges you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Leeds home, go to the campus and sit in on a couple of classes. While there talk with some 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? Finally, verify that the interior designer school you choose offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially significant if you plan to continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Leeds AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an option also. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Leeds Interior Design Programs

Choose in the Best Leeds Interior Design School

Picking the right interior design program is a crucial first step toward launching your career in this creative and gratifying profession. Finding a college where you will receive your training and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a difficult task regardless of what field you have chosen. As with any endeavor to receive a higher education, there are a number of points to think about before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, check that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the field. However it is still essential that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Leeds Alabama.