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How to Select the Best Interior Design Degree Program near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama interior designed living roomNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Sheffield AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's essential that you get the right training to put your talents to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's very important that you carry out the appropriate research in order to assess and compare each school that you are considering before you make your ultimate selection. But exactly where do you start? Many potential students will kick off their research by searching for interior design schools near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant variables when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation should be taken into account also. We will cover those topics and other important questions that you must ask 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 choices are available.

Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design

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Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The principal distinction between them is the amount of education required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they have a general 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 as well as be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make living or work areas attractive as well as functional. On many projects they may collaborate with building engineers and architects. There are two general areas that an interior designer in Sheffield AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. 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 can specialize in designing one particular room, for instance bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with commercial or public spaces, designers normally concentrate predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. For instance, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the primary concern.

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

Interior Design Degrees

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There are 4 degree alternatives offered in interior design to receive the training necessary to start your new profession in Sheffield AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives in addition to the money and time that you have budgeted to invest in your education. But no matter which degree program you choose to enroll in, make certain to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in some states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum level of education required to enter the field. They take about two years to finish and programs are available at a number of Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative components of the business needed to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs provide advanced design training after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialty majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are largely for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs differ in length but are generally completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to study in the convenience of their Sheffield AL homes, there are online accredited interior design colleges. 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 laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For some students online colleges may be the sole alternative if no interior design schools are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be decreased or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the school you select is accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design college may be the perfect option for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Designer Schools

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After you have selected the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can start the task of evaluating your college options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the campus has to be within driving distance from your Sheffield AL home. Naturally if you are interested in attending a school online, or are prepared to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The cost of tuition will narrow down your options as well. But choosing the cheapest school or the one that is closest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other things that you need to look at as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a few questions that you may want to ask the colleges you are considering to obtain those answers in addition to others to help you compare and subsequently choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's imperative to verify that the interior designer program and school that you choose has been accredited by either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding assessment of their programs and teachers. Just make sure that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are outstanding, it might also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Sheffield AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in addition to a degree from an accredited program. And in some of those States requiring licensing, at least 2 years of work experience may be required also. So besides furnishing an exceptional education, the Sheffield AL college you enroll in should also furnish the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly want some support in finding your first job. Ask the schools that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent sign that the college and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design trade and its students are in demand. It could also signify that the college has a significant network of Sheffield AL business connections where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Get in touch with the financial aid offices for the Sheffield AL colleges you are evaluating and ask what type of support they provide. Many of interior design programs offer financial aid to their new students. Various colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide help in acquiring federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that enrolling in an accredited college is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial aid.

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. Find out from the Sheffield AL schools you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Sheffield home, go to the school and attend a couple of classes. While there talk with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior designer school you choose provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially significant if you plan to continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Sheffield AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative as well. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, family or illness.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Colleges

Enroll in the Right Sheffield Interior Design College

Choosing the right interior designer school is a critical initial step toward starting your career in this creative and rewarding profession. Finding a school where you will receive your training and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a challenging job no matter what field you have chosen. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are several points to consider before enrolling in a course, program or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design school 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 provided in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with excellent training and your determination to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Sheffield Alabama.