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How to Select the Best Interior Design Degree Program near Mountain Brook Alabama

Mountain Brook Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Mountain Brook AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's important that you obtain the appropriate training to put your skills to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's crucial that you carry out the appropriate research so that you can analyze and compare each college that you are considering before you make your ultimate choice. But where do you begin? Many prospective students will launch their research by searching for interior design schools near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are relevant factors when making a decision, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will cover those topics and other important questions that you must ask 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 offered.

Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

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Some people mistake interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The key distinction between the two is the level of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. However, working as an interior designer requires formal training and in many states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or living areas functional as well as attractive. On many occasions they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Mountain Brook AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any area of a house, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they can specialize in designing one specific room, for example kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on commercial or public spaces, designers normally concentrate primarily on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. For instance, business meeting rooms and reception areas are spaces where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the primary consideration.

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to learn, for example color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. They must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to including Feng shui principles, Mountain Brook AL interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that contribute to their final designs.

Interior Designer Training Programs

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There are four degree options offered in interior design to obtain the training necessary to start your new profession in Mountain Brook AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be motivated by your career objectives as well as the time and money that you have to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in several states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of education needed to enter the field. They take roughly 2 years to finish and programs are offered at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative aspects of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced training in design after achieving a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialty majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are mainly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are usually completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of field experience may be needed before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to attend classes in the comfort of their Mountain Brook AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a good alternative 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 practical for the student. For some students online colleges may be the only alternative if no interior design programs are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Added expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. 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 Design Colleges

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Now that you have decided on the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of assessing your college options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the college has to be within driving distance from your Mountain Brook AL home. Obviously if you have decided on attending an online school, or are prepared to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will limit your options as well. But selecting the cheapest college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you need to consider also, including the accreditation and reputation of the program. Following are a list of questions that you may want to address with the programs you are reviewing to get those answers as well as others in order to help you compare and ultimately select the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's essential to confirm that the interior design program and school that you enroll in has been accredited by either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just confirm 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 exceptional, it might also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, many Mountain Brook AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam as well as a degree from an accredited school. And in several of those States requiring licensing, 2 or more years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore besides providing an excellent education, the Mountain Brook AL school you select should also provide the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination and satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will probably want some assistance in finding your first position. Ask the schools that you are reviewing if they have a job placement program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the school and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design field and its students are sought after. It could also indicate that the school has a substantial network of Mountain Brook AL business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Contact the financial aid departments for the Mountain Brook AL schools you are evaluating and ask what type of support they offer. Many of interior design schools offer financial aid to their new students. Some schools offer partial scholarships while others provide support in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Big are the Classrooms? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Mountain Brook AL programs you are considering what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Mountain Brook home, go to the school and monitor a few classes. While there speak with some 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 Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Finally, make certain that the interior designer program you choose offers classes the fit your hectic 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, verify that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an option as well. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Mountain Brook Interior Design Degrees

Enroll in the Right Mountain Brook Interior Design School

Picking the right interior designer program is a crucial first step toward launching your career in this artistic and fulfilling occupation. Searching for a school where you will obtain your training and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a challenging task no matter what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are several factors to think about before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design college are both accredited and highly esteemed in the business. However it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with superior training and your desire to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Mountain Brook Alabama.