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How to Find the Right Interior Design College near Mountain Brook Alabama

Mountain Brook Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program near Mountain Brook AL, it's time to start the process of selecting 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 talents to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's essential that you do the proper research so that you can evaluate and compare each program that you are considering before you make your ultimate selection. But where do you begin? A number of potential students will begin their research by looking for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are key variables when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation should be taken into account as well. We will address those issues and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But before we do, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class choices are available.

Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

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Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The main distinction between them is the level of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, working as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in a number of states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living areas attractive as well as functional. On some projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Mountain Brook AL can specialize in:

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

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. They must 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, Mountain Brook AL interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that contribute to their final creations.

Interior Design Degrees

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There are four degree options available in interior design to obtain the training necessary to launch your new profession in Mountain Brook AL. Your choice will no doubt be motivated by your career goals in addition to the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, make sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in some states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of training required to enter the profession. They take roughly 2 years to finish and programs are offered at a number of Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative components of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs provide advanced design training after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialized 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 degrees are primarily for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs differ in length but are usually completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states mandate that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of professional experience may be needed before an applicant can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For students who to attend classes in the convenience of their Mountain Brook AL homes, there are online accredited interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a great solution for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For a number of students online schools may be the sole alternative 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 minimized or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, 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 learning. If you have the discipline to obtain your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the right option for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Programs

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Once you have selected the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the task of reviewing your school options. Location will be an important issue, particularly if the college has to be within commuting distance from your Mountain Brook AL home. Of course if you have decided on attending a school online, or are prepared to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will limit your options as well. But choosing the least expensive college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you need to look at also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the programs you are looking at to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you compare and ultimately choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior design program and school that you select has been accredited by either a national or regional organization. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through an extensive evaluation of their teachers 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 confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are outstanding, it may also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Mountain Brook AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some States do require that interior designers become 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 school. And in some of those States calling for licensing, a minimum of 2 years of professional experience may be required as well. So besides providing an exceptional education, the Mountain Brook AL college you enroll in should also provide the proper education 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 Program's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and obtained your interior design certification, you will no doubt need some help in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design profession and its students are sought after. It may also indicate that the college has a significant network of Mountain Brook AL business contacts where they can place students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Mountain Brook AL schools you are looking at and ask what kind of support they provide. A number of interior design schools provide financial assistance to their new students. Some schools provide partial scholarships and others provide help in obtaining grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited program is imperative 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 aid.

How Large are the Classes? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Mountain Brook AL schools you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Mountain Brook home, visit the school and sit in on a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to speak with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior design school you choose provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, confirm that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an option also. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Find Out More About Mountain Brook Interior Design Schools

Choose in the Best Mountain Brook Interior Design Program

Selecting the right interior designer school is a critical initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and rewarding occupation. Finding a school where you will obtain your education and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting task regardless of what field you have decided on. As with any endeavor to receive an advanced education, there are a number of things to think about before enrolling in a course, program or school. At a minimum, make sure that the design college and program are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. But it is still essential that you perform your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the remaining recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with superior training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Mountain Brook Alabama.