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How to Enroll in the Right Interior Design Program near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama interior designed living roomNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program near Sheffield AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's essential that you obtain the proper training to put your skills to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's crucial that you perform the appropriate research so that you can analyze and compare each program that you are looking at prior to making your ultimate choice. But where do you start? Many potential students will start their research by looking for interior design courses near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are important variables when making a decision, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation must be taken into consideration as well. We will discuss those topics and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class options are available.

Interior Design and Interior Decoration

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Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The principal distinction between the two is the amount of training required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, working as an interior designer requires formal training and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make living or work spaces attractive as well as functional. On many projects they may collaborate with building engineers and architects. There are 2 broad areas that an interior designer in Sheffield AL may specialize in:

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

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

Interior Designer Training Programs

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There are four degree options available in interior design to receive the training required to start your new career in Sheffield AL. Your selection will no doubt be motivated by your career objectives in addition to the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in a number of states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum amount of training needed to enter the profession. They take roughly two years to finish and programs are offered at many Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that supply more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical facets of the business required to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced training in design after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialty majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are primarily for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university 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 require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of field experience may be called for before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For students who to attend classes in the convenience of their Sheffield AL homes, there are online accredited interior design classes. Studying online can be a great option for those students that are employed or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For many students online programs may be the only alternative if no interior design colleges are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more traditional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the program you choose is accredited by a highly regarded 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 distance or online learning. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design school may be the perfect option for you.

What to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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Once you have decided on the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of analyzing your college options. Location will be an important factor, especially if the school needs to be within commuting distance from your Sheffield AL home. Obviously if you are interested in attending an online school, or are prepared to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will limit your options also. But selecting the most affordable college or the one that is closest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other things that you should look at as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Below are a few concerns that you may want to ask the colleges you are looking at to get those answers as well as others in order to help you assess and subsequently select the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer Degree Program Accredited? It's essential to verify that the interior designer program and school that you select has earned accreditation from either a national or regional organization. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges receiving accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding evaluation of their programs and instructors. 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 establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are excellent, it might also help when securing financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many 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, a number of States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited school. And in some of those States mandating licensing, two or more years of professional experience may be required also. So aside from furnishing an exceptional education, the Sheffield AL college you choose should also provide the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination and fulfill the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and attained your interior designer certification, you will no doubt want some help in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job placement program. If yes, ask 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 graduates are sought after. It could also signify that the college has a sizable network of Sheffield AL business contacts where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Contact the financial assistance offices for the Sheffield AL schools you are reviewing and find out what kind of aid they provide. Many of interior designer colleges offer financial aid to their new students. Various schools provide partial scholarships and others provide help in securing grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive limited individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Sheffield AL colleges you are reviewing what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Sheffield home, go to the college and attend a few classes. While there speak with a few 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 Offered that Fit your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design college you choose provides classes the fit your active 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 certain that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, verify that is an option also. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, family or illness.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Programs

Choose in the Right Sheffield Interior Design School

Selecting the right interior design school is an important initial step toward starting your career in this artistic and rewarding profession. Finding a school where you will receive your education and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a daunting task regardless of what field you have decided on. As with any endeavor to acquire an advanced education, there are several points to think about before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design college are both accredited and highly esteemed in the business. However it is still imperative that you perform your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with superior training and your determination to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Sheffield Alabama.