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How to Pick the Right Interior Design School near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer degree program near Muscle Shoals 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 spaces, it's imperative that you get the right training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's very important that you carry out the appropriate research in order to assess and compare each college that you are looking at prior to making your final decision. But where do you begin? Some prospective students will launch their research by searching for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are relevant factors when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into consideration as well. We will cover those issues and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are researching 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 and Interior Decoration

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Many people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The key difference between the two is the amount of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they possess a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, conducting business as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential areas attractive as well as functional. On various occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Muscle Shoals AL can specialize in:

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

There are several areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. Designers have to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui principles, Muscle Shoals AL interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that help bring about their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degree Options

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There are four degree options offered in interior design to obtain the training necessary to start your new career in Muscle Shoals AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives as well as the time and money that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But regardless of which degree program you opt to enroll in, make certain to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in a number of states. More will be discussed 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 level of training needed to enter the field. They take about two years to complete and programs are offered at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can normally qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical aspects of the business required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are usually completed in three to five years.

To work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of field experience may be required before an applicant can take the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to attend classes in the comfort of their Muscle Shoals AL homes, there are accredited online interior design degrees. Attending classes online can be an excellent alternative for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For some students online schools may be the sole alternative if no interior design programs are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just make certain that the college you enroll in is accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. If you have the discipline to acquire your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design college may be the ideal alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Programs

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After you have selected the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can begin the task of reviewing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the school has to be within driving distance from your Muscle Shoals AL residence. Of course if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The fee for tuition will limit your choices as well. But picking the cheapest school or the one that is closest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other things that you should consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a list of questions that you may want to address with the programs you are looking at to obtain those answers in addition to others to help you assess and subsequently pick the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's important to confirm that the interior designer school and program that you select has been accredited by either a regional or national organization. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous evaluation of their programs and instructors. 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 verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are outstanding, it may also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Muscle Shoals AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the Program Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several States do mandate that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam as well as a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States requiring licensing, 2 or more years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from furnishing an exceptional education, the Muscle Shoals AL college you select should also furnish the proper education 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 design certification, you will probably want some help in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job placement 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 highly esteemed within the interior design trade and its graduates are sought after. It may also indicate that the school has a large network of Muscle Shoals AL business connections where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Muscle Shoals AL schools you are evaluating and find out what type of support they provide. A number of interior designer schools offer financial aid to their new students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships and others provide help in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited program is imperative for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its competitors because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive limited individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Muscle Shoals AL programs you are considering what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Muscle Shoals home, go to the school and sit in on a few classes. While there talk with a few 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 Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior design program you select provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, verify that is an option also. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Muscle Shoals Interior Design Colleges

Enroll in the Best Muscle Shoals Interior Design School

Picking the ideal interior design program is an important initial step toward starting your career in this creative and rewarding occupation. Locating a school where you will obtain your training and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a challenging job regardless of what field you have decided on. As with any endeavor to acquire a higher education, there are many factors to think about before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design college are both accredited and highly respected in the field. But it is still essential that you conduct your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to effectively assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with excellent training and your determination to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Muscle Shoals Alabama.