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How to Select the Best Interior Designer College near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design school near Sheffield AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's imperative that you receive the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do require that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's very important that you do the proper research so that you can assess and compare each program that you are looking at before you make your final selection. But exactly where do you start? A number of potential students will kick off their research by looking for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant variables when making a decision, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation must be considered as well. We will discuss those topics and other crucial questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are researching 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 options are offered.

Interior Design and Interior Decoration

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Some people mistake interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The key distinction between them is the level of education required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make living or work spaces attractive as well as functional. On various projects they may team up with building engineers and architects. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Sheffield AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers often 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 particular room, for instance bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Designing. When dealing with public or commercial areas, designers normally concentrate primarily on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. For instance, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may focus more on functionality over appearance as the main concern.

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, such as color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From picking wall paper and carpeting to integrating Feng shui concepts, Sheffield AL interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that help bring about their final designs.

Interior Designer Training Programs

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There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to receive the training required to start your new profession in Sheffield AL. Your selection will no doubt be driven 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 select one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in several states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum level of education needed to enter the field. They take about two years to finish and programs are offered at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually obtain entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative aspects of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialized majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs 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 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and use 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 students who to study in the convenience of their Sheffield AL homes, there are accredited online interior design degrees. Studying online can be a great alternative for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For some students online colleges may be the only alternative if no interior design schools are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more traditional options. Additional costs 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 organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the dedication to obtain your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design college may be the right alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Programs

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When you have chosen the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the process of analyzing your school options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the college needs to 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 may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will narrow down your choices as well. But choosing the least expensive college or the one that is closest to home are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other variables that you should consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a few concerns that you may want to ask the schools you are looking at to get those answers in addition to others in order to help you examine and ultimately pick the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's imperative to confirm that the interior design school and program that you enroll in has earned accreditation from either a national or regional organization. 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 undergone 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 agency. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are outstanding, it may also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Sheffield AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the College Ready 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) examination as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in several of those States requiring licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required also. Therefore aside from providing an exceptional education, the Sheffield AL program you select should also furnish the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ examination and comply with 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 earned your interior designer certification, you will no doubt need some support in finding your first position. Ask the schools that you are considering if they have a job placement program. If yes, ask 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 sought after. It might also signify that the school has a large network of Sheffield AL business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Available? Get in touch with the financial aid offices for the Sheffield AL schools you are evaluating and ask what kind of aid they provide. A number of interior designer colleges offer financial aid to their new students. Various schools offer partial scholarships and others provide support in securing grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Sheffield AL colleges you are looking at what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Sheffield home, visit the college and monitor a couple of classes. While there talk with a few students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design college you enroll in offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while attending school. If you can only go to 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, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Colleges

Enroll in the Right Sheffield Interior Design Program

Choosing the ideal interior designer college is a critical initial step toward launching your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Finding a school where you will receive your training and cultivate your talents in a specific area of study is a daunting task regardless of what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are a number of points to consider before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. However it is still important that you carry out 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 colleges so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Sheffield Alabama.