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How to Find the Right Interior Design Course near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer degree program near Southside AL, it's time to start the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's essential that you obtain the proper training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's very important that you do the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each program that you are looking at prior to making your final selection. But just where do you begin? Many potential students will begin their research by searching for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key issues when making a decision, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into consideration also. We will cover those issues and other important questions that you should be asking 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 training choices are offered.

Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

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Many people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The principal distinction between them is the amount of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, doing business as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in a number of states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living spaces functional as well as attractive. On some occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are two general categories that an interior designer in Southside AL can specialize in:

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

There are several areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, such as color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. They need to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to create their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui concepts, Southside AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that contribute to their final designs.

Interior Designer Degrees

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There are four degree options available in interior design to obtain the training needed to start your new career in Southside AL. Your decision will undoubtedly be influenced by your career goals as well as the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you choose to enroll in, make sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in some states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of education required to enter the field. They take roughly 2 years to complete and programs are available at numerous Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that supply more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced training in design after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialized 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 their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are usually completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of professional experience may be needed before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to study in the comfort of their Southside AL homes, there are accredited online interior design schools. Attending classes online can be a great alternative for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For a number of students online programs may be the sole 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. Added costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated also. Just be sure that the school you select is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also acquire accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the discipline to acquire your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the ideal alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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When you have chosen the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of analyzing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the campus must be within driving distance from your Southside AL residence. Of course if you have decided on 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 as well. But picking the cheapest college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other issues that you need to look at also, including the reputation and accreditation of the college. Below are a list of questions that you may want to address with the programs you are reviewing to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you examine and ultimately choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's imperative to verify that the interior designer school and program that you choose has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just confirm 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 confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are excellent, it may also help when securing financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Southside AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the College Prepare you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, a number of States do mandate that interior designers get 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 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 exceptional education, the Southside AL program you select should also furnish the proper 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 College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior designer certification, you will probably need some support in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent sign that the college and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design field and its students are sought after. It might also indicate that the college has a large network of Southside AL business connections where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Available? Get in touch with the financial aid offices for the Southside AL schools you are evaluating and ask what kind of aid they provide. Many of interior designer programs provide financial assistance to their incoming students. Certain schools provide partial scholarships while others provide support in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a school that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Southside AL colleges you are reviewing what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Southside home, visit the college and sit in on a couple of classes. While there speak with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior designer school you choose offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially 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 Southside AL, confirm that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Courses

Enroll in the Right Southside Interior Design School

Selecting the right interior designer program is an important first step toward launching your career in this artistic and fulfilling profession. Finding a college where you will receive your education and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult task regardless of what major you have selected. As with any endeavor to acquire 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 regarded in the field. However it is still important that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to effectively review and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with excellent training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Southside Alabama.