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How to Select the Right Interior Design School near Orange Beach Alabama

Orange Beach Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer school near Orange Beach AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's important that you receive the proper 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 training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's essential that you perform the appropriate research in order to evaluate and compare each college that you are looking at before you make your ultimate decision. But where do you start? A number of prospective students will begin their research by looking for interior design programs near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are key issues when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into account as well. We will address those topics and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But first, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class options are offered.

Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

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Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The main difference between the two is the level of training required. Any person can work 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 necessitates formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make living or work areas attractive as well as functional. On many projects they may team up with building engineers and architects. There are two general areas that an interior designer in Orange Beach AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers frequently 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 may specialize in designing one specific room, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When working on public or commercial areas, designers normally focus predominantly 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 emphasized over function. Designs for hospitals and banks might concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the primary concern.

There are several areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, such as lighting, color schemes, furniture and acoustics. Designers have to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From selecting carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui principles, Orange Beach AL interior designers employ a wide range of skills that contribute to their final designs.

Interior Design Degree Programs

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There are 4 degree alternatives available in interior design to acquire the training necessary to begin your new profession in Orange Beach AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be motivated by your career goals in addition to the time and money that you have budgeted to invest in your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in a number of states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of training required to enter the profession. They take approximately two years to finish and programs are offered at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level jobs 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 creative and technical facets of the business needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced training in design after achieving a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialty majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are largely for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs differ in length but are generally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In several instances, 2 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 Orange Beach AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Studying online can be an excellent alternative for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For a number of students online programs may be the sole option if no interior design colleges are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated also. Just make certain 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 programs may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the discipline to acquire your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the right alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Programs

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Once you have chosen the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the process of evaluating your college options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the school needs to be within driving distance from your Orange Beach AL residence. Naturally if you are interested in attending a school online, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The fee for tuition will limit your options as well. But picking the least expensive school or the one that is nearest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you should consider as well, including the accreditation and reputation of the program. Below are a few questions that you may want to ask the programs you are looking at to get those answers as well as others in order to help you assess and ultimately choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's important to make sure that the interior designer school and program that you select has earned accreditation from either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous assessment of their teachers and programs. Just make sure 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 college and the quality of the training are exceptional, it might also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, many Orange Beach AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several 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 college. And in several of those States mandating licensing, two or more years of professional experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an excellent education, the Orange Beach AL school you choose should also provide the proper education to pass the NCIDQ examination and comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and earned your interior designer certification, you will probably want some help in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are looking at if they have a job assistance program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good indication that the college and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design field and its students are sought after. It may also indicate that the school has a substantial network of Orange Beach AL business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Contact the financial aid offices for the Orange Beach AL schools you are reviewing and ask what kind of aid they offer. Many of interior designer colleges offer financial assistance to their incoming students. Some schools offer partial scholarships while others provide help in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive limited individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Orange Beach AL programs you are reviewing what their average student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your Orange Beach home, go to the school and sit in on a few classes. While there speak with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design program you select provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly significant if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Orange Beach AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, check that is an option as well. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Colleges

Choose in the Best Orange Beach Interior Design School

Choosing the ideal interior design college is a crucial initial step toward launching your career in this creative and gratifying profession. Locating a college where you will receive your training and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a difficult job regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are many factors 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 respected in the profession. But it is still important that you carry out your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with superior training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Orange Beach Alabama.