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

Orange Beach Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Orange Beach AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's important that you receive the right training to put your skills to work. And since several states do require that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's very important that you do the appropriate research in order to analyze and compare each college that you are considering before you make your ultimate selection. But where do you start? Many potential students will start their research by looking for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are key factors when making a determination, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation should be taken into account as well. We will discuss those issues and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are looking at 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 choices are available.

Interior Decoration and Interior Design

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Often people mistake interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The principal distinction between the two is the amount of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, working as an interior designer requires a formal education and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential spaces functional as well as attractive. On many projects they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are two general areas that an interior designer in Orange Beach AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers typically work on new construction and existing homes. They can design essentially any area of the home, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one specific room, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Designing. When dealing with public or commercial spaces, designers often concentrate predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be focused on over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may focus more on functionality over looks as the main concern.

There are numerous areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, for example color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. They must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to create their visions. From selecting carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui concepts, Orange Beach AL interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that help bring about their final designs.

Interior Designer Degree Options

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There are four degree options offered in interior design to get the training required to start your new profession in Orange Beach AL. Your choice will no doubt be influenced by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure 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 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 supply the minimum amount of education required to enter the field. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical facets of the business needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs provide advanced design training after achieving a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialized majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mostly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs vary in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of professional 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 Orange Beach AL homes, there are online accredited interior design degrees. Attending classes online can be a great solution 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 some students online colleges may be the sole option if no interior design colleges are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be decreased or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the program you select is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also acquire accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the dedication 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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When you have chosen the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can begin the task of reviewing your college options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the school needs to be within commuting distance from your Orange Beach AL residence. Obviously if you are interested in attending a school online, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The fee for tuition will decrease your options also. But picking the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other variables that you need to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a few concerns that you may want to address with the schools you are reviewing to get those answers in addition to others in order to help you examine and ultimately choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's important to verify that the interior design school and program that you choose 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). Schools receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive evaluation of their instructors and programs. Just make sure that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the school 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 available for non-accredited schools. Also, many Orange Beach AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several States do mandate that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in several of those States calling for licensing, two or more years of occupational experience may be required also. So aside from furnishing an exceptional education, the Orange Beach AL school you choose should also provide the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ exam and meet the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior designer certification, you will probably need some help in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are considering if they have a job assistance program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good indication that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design profession and its graduates are in demand. It could also signify that the college has a large network of Orange Beach AL business relationships where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Get in touch with the financial aid offices for the Orange Beach AL colleges you are reviewing and find out what type of support they offer. A number of interior designer programs offer financial aid to their incoming students. Various schools provide partial scholarships while others provide support in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that selecting an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Orange Beach AL schools you are looking at what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Orange Beach home, visit the college and monitor a few classes. While there speak with some students and find out 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? Finally, make sure that the interior design program you select provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is particularly important if you plan to continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Orange Beach AL, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you 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

Enroll in the Right Orange Beach Interior Design Program

Picking the right interior designer program is a critical first step toward launching your career in this creative and rewarding profession. Searching for a college where you will obtain your training and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a challenging job regardless of what field you have chosen. As with any endeavor to receive an advanced education, there are several factors to think about before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, check that the design college and program are both accredited and highly esteemed in the business. However it is still essential that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Orange Beach Alabama.