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How to Enroll in the Best Interior Design Degree Program near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program near Southside AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's important that you obtain the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's crucial that you perform the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each school that you are considering prior to making your final selection. But just where do you begin? Many future students will start their research by looking for interior design programs near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key issues when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation should be considered as well. We will discuss those issues and other important questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in 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 alternatives are offered.

Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

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Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The primary difference between the two is the amount of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, conducting business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or living areas attractive as well as functional. On various projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad areas that an interior designer in Southside AL may specialize in:

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

There are numerous areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. Designers need to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to create their visions. From choosing carpeting and wall paper to including Feng shui principles, Southside AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that help bring about their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degree Programs

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There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to get the training necessary to begin your new profession in Southside AL. Your decision 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, be sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in a number of states. More will be covered on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum level of training required to enter the field. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are available at numerous Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative components of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced design training after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialty majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

To work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be called for before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to study in the comfort of their Southside AL homes, there are accredited online interior design degrees. 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 practical for the student. For a number of students online colleges may be the sole option if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more traditional options. Added expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated as well. Just make certain that the school you pick is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also receive 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 confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design college may be the perfect alternative for you.

Subjects to Ask Interior Design Colleges

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When you have decided on the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of reviewing your school options. Location will be an important issue, particularly if the college has to be within driving distance from your Southside AL residence. Obviously if you are interested in attending a school online, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The cost of tuition will limit your options as well. But picking the most affordable school or the one that is closest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you should look at also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a few concerns that you may want to address with the schools you are looking at to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you assess and subsequently choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's important to make sure that the interior designer school and program that you enroll in has been accredited by 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 obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding 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 organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are exceptional, it might also help when securing financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Southside AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level positions.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several States do require that interior designers become 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 some of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of occupational experience may be required also. Therefore in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Southside AL college you choose should also furnish the proper instruction to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will no doubt want some support in finding your first job. 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 a good indication that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design trade and its students are sought after. It could also signify that the college has a substantial network of Southside AL business relationships where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the Southside AL schools you are reviewing and find out what type of support they provide. A number of interior design colleges provide financial assistance to their new students. Certain schools provide partial scholarships and others provide help in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its competitors because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Southside AL colleges you are considering what their average student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your Southside home, go to the campus and monitor a few 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 backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Last, verify that the interior design program you enroll in provides classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially significant if you plan to continue working while going to college. If you can only go to classes at night 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, check that is an option as well. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Degrees

Enroll in the Right Southside Interior Design School

Choosing the ideal interior design school is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling occupation. Finding a college where you will receive your training and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a challenging job regardless of what field you have selected. As with any endeavor to attain an advanced education, there are several things to consider before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, verify that the program and design college are both accredited and highly respected in the business. However it is still important that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your desire to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Southside Alabama.