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How to Enroll in the Best Interior Designer College near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Muscle Shoals AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's essential that you get the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's crucial that you do the appropriate research in order to analyze and compare each college that you are considering prior to making your final choice. But just where do you start? Many prospective students will start their research by looking for interior design schools 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. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will cover those issues and other crucial questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in 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 vs Interior Design

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Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The principal difference between them is the amount of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential areas functional as well as attractive. On some projects they may collaborate with building engineers and architects. There are two broad areas that an interior designer in Muscle Shoals AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design essentially any area of a house, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they may specialize in designing one particular room, for example bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with commercial or public spaces, designers normally concentrate primarily on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. As an 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 appearance as the primary concern.

There are numerous areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, for example color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. Designers 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, Muscle Shoals AL interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that contribute to their final designs.

Interior Designer Degree Options

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There are 4 degree alternatives offered in interior design to obtain the training needed to launch your new career in Muscle Shoals AL. Your decision will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have to invest in your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in some states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum amount of education needed to enter the field. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are offered at a number of 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 supply more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative facets of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a college graduate 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 a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialized 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. Doctorate degrees are largely 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.

In order to work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of professional experience may be required before an applicant can take the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For anyone wishing' to attend classes in the convenience of their Muscle Shoals AL homes, there are accredited online interior design colleges. Studying online can be a good alternative for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For many students online schools may be the only option if no interior design programs are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated also. Just be sure that the school you select is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design school may be the right option for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Designer Schools

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After you have decided on the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the task of evaluating your college options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the campus needs to be within driving distance from your Muscle Shoals AL home. Obviously if you have decided on attending a school online, or are prepared to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The fee for tuition will limit your choices also. But selecting the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should look at also, including the accreditation and reputation of the program. Below are a few questions that you may want to address with the schools you are looking at to get those answers in addition to others to help you compare and subsequently pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's important to confirm that the interior design program and school that you choose has been accredited by either a regional or national organization. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges receiving accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding 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 organization. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are exceptional, it might also help when securing 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 schools for entry level positions.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several States do mandate 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 college. And in some of those States calling for licensing, two or more years of professional experience may be required also. So in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Muscle Shoals AL program you choose should also provide the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ examination and satisfy the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and attained your interior design certification, you will probably want some support in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent sign that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design profession and its graduates are sought after. It may also indicate that the school has a significant network of Muscle Shoals AL business relationships where they can refer students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Contact the financial assistance offices for the Muscle Shoals AL colleges you are reviewing and find out what type of assistance they offer. Many of interior design colleges provide financial assistance to their new students. Various colleges provide partial scholarships and others provide support in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. Often a program that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Muscle Shoals AL schools you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your Muscle Shoals home, go to the school and attend a few classes. While there speak with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior designer college you enroll in offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, make certain that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, confirm that is an option also. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, sickness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Colleges

Enroll in the Right Muscle Shoals Interior Design College

Selecting the ideal interior design program is a critical first step toward starting your career in this creative and rewarding occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your training and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a daunting job no matter what major you have decided on. As with any endeavor to attain a higher education, there are several factors to think about before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, verify that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the field. However it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design schools so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with quality training and your desire to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Muscle Shoals Alabama.