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

Muscle Shoals Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design school near Muscle Shoals 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 spaces, it's imperative that you obtain the right training to put your skills to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's essential that you do the proper research in order to assess and compare each school that you are looking at before you make your ultimate choice. But where do you begin? Some future students will start their research by looking for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are important issues when making a decision, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation must be considered 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 before we do, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training options are available.

Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design

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Often people mistake interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The principal difference between them is the amount of education required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, working as an interior designer requires a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or residential spaces attractive as well as functional. On some projects they may team up with building engineers and architects. There are 2 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 essentially any room of the home, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, such as kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on commercial or public spaces, designers normally concentrate predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. For instance, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may focus more on functionality over appearance as the primary concern.

There are several areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, including color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers must be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui concepts, Muscle Shoals AL interior designers implement a wide variety of skills that contribute to their final creations.

Interior Designer Degree Programs

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There are 4 degree options available in interior design to receive the training needed to begin your new career in Muscle Shoals AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be influenced by your career goals in addition to the time and money that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum level of training needed to enter the field. They take roughly two years to complete and programs are available at many Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative facets of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced design training after acquiring a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialized 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 degrees are primarily for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs differ in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

To work as a professional and adopt 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 called for before a candidate can take the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For students who to study in the comfort 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 employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be accessed 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 schools are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Additional expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be decreased or eliminated also. Just make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also acquire 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 confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the ideal option for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Schools

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After you have selected the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the task of assessing your school options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the school has to be within commuting distance from your Muscle Shoals AL home. Of course if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your options also. But picking the cheapest college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you should consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a few questions that you may want to address with the colleges you are considering to get those answers in addition to others in order to help you examine and ultimately choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's essential to confirm that the interior design college and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a national or regional organization. One of the most respected 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 confirm that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are outstanding, it might also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Muscle Shoals AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prep 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 in addition to a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States mandating licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. So besides providing an outstanding education, the Muscle Shoals AL program you enroll in should also provide the suitable instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam 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 received your interior design certification, you will no doubt want some support in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job assistance program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good indication that the college and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design trade and its students are in demand. It could also signify that the college has a large network of Muscle Shoals AL business connections where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Muscle Shoals AL colleges you are reviewing and ask what type of aid they provide. Many of interior designer schools offer financial aid to their incoming students. Certain schools provide partial scholarships while others provide support in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that enrolling in an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its competitors because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Small are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Muscle Shoals AL colleges you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Muscle Shoals home, visit the campus and sit in on a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Last, make certain that the interior designer college you choose provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, confirm that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, verify that is an option as well. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, family or illness.

Find Out More About Muscle Shoals Interior Design Colleges

Choose in the Best Muscle Shoals Interior Design Program

Picking the right interior design program is a critical first step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Finding a college where you will obtain your education and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a challenging task regardless of what field you have selected. As with any undertaking to acquire a higher education, there are a number of things to consider before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, make sure that the design college and program are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. However it is still important that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right final selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Muscle Shoals Alabama.