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How to Find the Best Interior Designer Degree Program near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program near Sheffield AL, it's time to begin the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's important that you receive the proper training to put your talents to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's essential that you carry out the proper research so that you can analyze and compare each program that you are reviewing prior to making your ultimate choice. But just where do you begin? Many prospective students will begin their research by looking for interior design schools near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are key variables when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be considered as well. We will address those topics and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class choices are offered.

Interior Decoration and Interior Design

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Many people mistake interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The principal distinction between them is the level of education required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living areas attractive as well as functional. On some occasions they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are two general categories that an interior designer in Sheffield AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers frequently work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any area of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one specific room, for instance kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with public or commercial spaces, designers frequently concentrate primarily on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. For example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be focused on over function. Designs for hospitals and banks might focus more on functionality over looks as the main consideration.

There are numerous areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to learn, including lighting, color schemes, furniture and acoustics. Designers have to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From choosing carpeting and wall paper to including Feng shui principles, Sheffield AL interior designers employ a wide range of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.

Interior Designer Degree Programs

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There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to acquire the training required to start your new profession in Sheffield AL. Your choice will no doubt be motivated by your career goals 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 choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in some states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of education needed to enter the profession. They take approximately 2 years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally obtain entry level employment 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 aspects of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced training in design after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer alternatives in specialty majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are mainly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are generally completed in three to five years.

To work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be required before an applicant can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to study in the comfort of their Sheffield AL homes, there are accredited online interior design schools. Studying online can be a great solution for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For a number of students online programs may be the sole option if no interior design programs are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be decreased or eliminated also. Just make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. If you have the dedication to obtain 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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Now that you have selected the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can start the task of reviewing your school options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the campus must be within commuting distance from your Sheffield AL residence. Obviously if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The expense for tuition will narrow down your choices as well. But selecting the least expensive school or the one that is nearest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you need to look at as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the college. Below are a few questions that you may want to address with the schools you are considering to obtain those answers in addition to others to help you compare and subsequently choose the right degree program.

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

Does the Program Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do mandate 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 college. And in several of those States calling for licensing, two or more years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Sheffield AL program you select should also provide the suitable instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior design certification, you will no doubt want some support in finding your first job. Ask the schools that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design trade and its graduates are in demand. It may also indicate that the college has a significant network of Sheffield AL business relationships where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the Sheffield AL schools you are evaluating and ask what type of assistance they provide. Many of interior design programs provide financial aid to their new students. Various colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide assistance in obtaining federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a school that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its competitors because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Sheffield AL colleges you are considering what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Sheffield home, go to the school and attend a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to 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? Finally, make sure that the interior designer college you choose offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Sheffield AL, make sure 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 because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Colleges

Choose in the Best Sheffield Interior Design College

Choosing the ideal interior designer program is an important first step toward starting your career in this creative and rewarding profession. Searching for a school where you will obtain your education and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting task no matter what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are several factors to think about before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, verify that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. However it is still imperative that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Sheffield Alabama.