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How to Enroll in the Right Interior Design School near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design degree program near Muscle Shoals AL, it's time to begin the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's imperative that you receive the proper training to put your skills to work. And since some states do require that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's vital that you carry out the proper research in order to analyze and compare each program that you are considering before you make your ultimate decision. But just where do you begin? A number of prospective students will begin their research by looking for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant issues when making a determination, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation must be taken into account as well. We will discuss those topics and other crucial questions that you should be asking 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 Decoration compared to Interior Design

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Some people mistake interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The main difference between the two is the amount of education required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. However, working as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in numerous states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living areas attractive as well as functional. On various projects they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are two broad areas that an interior designer in Muscle Shoals AL may specialize in:

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

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

Interior Design Degrees

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There are four degree options available in interior design to acquire the training required to start your new profession in Muscle Shoals AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives as well as the time and money that you have to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in some 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 level of training required to enter the profession. They take about two years to finish and programs are offered at many Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can typically obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical components of the business needed to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced training in design after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives 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. Doctoral programs are primarily for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

In order to work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Muscle Shoals AL homes, there are accredited online interior design classes. Attending classes online can be a good alternative for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make attending classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For many students online schools may be the only 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. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the school you enroll in is accredited by a respected 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 education. If you have the dedication to obtain your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the right option for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Programs

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Once you have selected the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can begin the task of evaluating your college options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the campus must be within driving distance from your Muscle Shoals AL residence. Naturally if you are interested in attending a school online, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The fee for tuition will decrease your choices also. But picking the least expensive school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you need to consider also, such as the accreditation and reputation of the school. Below are a list of questions that you may want to address with the schools you are considering to obtain those answers in addition to others to help you assess and subsequently pick the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's essential to verify that the interior design school and program that you choose has earned accreditation from 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). Colleges obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding assessment of their programs and instructors. 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 verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are outstanding, it may also help when securing financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, many Muscle Shoals AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the Program Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several 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 college. And in several of those States calling for licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required also. Therefore in addition to furnishing an outstanding education, the Muscle Shoals AL college you select should also furnish the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ examination and satisfy 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 received your interior design certification, you will probably need some help in finding your first job. Ask the schools that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent indication that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design field and its graduates are sought after. It might also indicate that the college has a substantial network of Muscle Shoals AL business contacts where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Contact the financial assistance offices for the Muscle Shoals AL schools you are evaluating and find out what kind of assistance they provide. Many of interior designer colleges offer financial aid to their new students. Some schools offer partial scholarships while others provide assistance in securing federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a program that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Muscle Shoals AL schools you are looking at what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Muscle Shoals home, go to the school and sit in on a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with a few students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, confirm that the interior design program you choose offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, check that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Schools

Choose in the Best Muscle Shoals Interior Design Program

Selecting the right interior design college is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and fulfilling occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your education and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting task no matter what major you have selected. As with any endeavor to receive a higher education, there are a number of things to think about before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. But it is still important that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Muscle Shoals Alabama.