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How to Select the Right Interior Designer College near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Sheffield 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 imperative that you obtain the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's essential that you perform the appropriate research so that you can analyze and compare each school that you are considering before you make your final choice. But exactly where do you begin? Many future students will kick off their research by looking for interior design programs near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key factors when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into account as well. We will cover those topics and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But before we do, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training alternatives are offered.

Interior Design compared to Interior Decoration

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

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design essentially any area of a house, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they may specialize in designing one particular room, for example bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Designing. 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 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 appearance as the main consideration.

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

Interior Designer Degrees

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There are four degree alternatives offered in interior design to get the training necessary to begin your new career in Sheffield AL. Your selection will no doubt be motivated by your career goals as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you choose to enroll in, make certain to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum level of training required to enter the profession. They take about two years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical aspects of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level job 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 options in specialty 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 programs are primarily for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs differ in length but are generally completed in three to five years.

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

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to study in the convenience of their Sheffield AL homes, there are accredited online interior design schools. Attending classes online can be a great option for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For a number of students online schools may be the only alternative if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be decreased or eliminated also. Just be sure that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also obtain 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 confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Programs

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After you have selected the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the task of reviewing your school options. Location will be an important factor, especially if the college must be within driving distance from your Sheffield AL residence. Naturally if you have decided on attending a school online, or are able to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will limit your choices also. But choosing the most affordable college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other variables that you need to look at also, including the accreditation and reputation of the school. Below are a few concerns that you may want to address with the colleges you are considering to obtain those answers as well as others in order to help you compare and subsequently select the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior design college and program that you choose has earned accreditation from either a regional or national agency. One of the most highly regarded in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools receiving accreditation from the NASAD have gone through an extensive assessment of their programs and instructors. Just make sure that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are outstanding, it may also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, many Sheffield AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would necessitate 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 mandating licensing, two or more years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an excellent education, the Sheffield AL program you select should also provide the proper 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 College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will probably want some help in finding your first position. Ask the schools that you are looking at if they have a job assistance program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good indication that the college and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design trade and its graduates are sought after. It may also signify that the college has a sizable network of Sheffield AL business relationships where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Sheffield AL schools you are looking at and find out what kind of assistance they provide. Many of interior design colleges offer financial assistance to their new students. Various schools offer partial scholarships while others provide help in obtaining grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited school is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classrooms? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Sheffield AL schools you are considering what their typical student to teacher 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 experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Last, verify that the interior designer college you choose offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly significant if you plan to continue working while going to college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Sheffield AL, verify that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative also. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Find Out More About Sheffield Interior Design Programs

Choose in the Best Sheffield Interior Design College

Picking the right interior design program is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling occupation. Searching for a college where you will receive your education and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a challenging job no matter what field you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are several things to think about before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design school are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. However it is still important that you perform your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to effectively assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Sheffield Alabama.