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How to Find the Right Interior Design School near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama interior designed living roomNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer school near Southside AL, it's time to start the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's important that you get the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's essential that you carry out the appropriate research in order to evaluate and compare each school that you are looking at prior to making your final decision. But just where do you start? Some prospective students will kick off their research by searching for interior design programs near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key variables when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation need to be considered as well. We will address those issues and other crucial 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 class alternatives are available.

Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

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Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The primary distinction between them is the level of training 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 and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make living or work areas attractive as well as functional. On many projects they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad areas that an interior designer in Southside AL may specialize in:

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

There are several areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, such as lighting, color schemes, furniture and acoustics. They 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 including Feng shui principles, Southside AL interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that help bring about their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degree Programs

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There are four degree options available in interior design to receive the training needed to launch your new profession in Southside AL. Your decision will no doubt be motivated by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in several states. More will be discussed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take approximately 2 years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that provide more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum 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 attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are largely for those professionals who wish 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 as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Southside AL homes, there are online accredited interior design classes. Studying online can be an excellent alternative for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For some students online programs may be the sole alternative if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more traditional options. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated also. Just make certain that the college you pick is accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, 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 distance or online education. If you have the discipline to obtain your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the ideal alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Designer Programs

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After you have chosen the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can start the task of analyzing your college options. Location will be an important factor, especially if the school must be within driving distance from your Southside AL residence. Of course if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your options also. But selecting the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your residence are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other things that you should look at as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a list of questions that you may want to ask the programs you are looking at to obtain those answers in addition to others to help you compare and subsequently choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's imperative to confirm that the interior designer program and college that you enroll in has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding assessment of their programs and teachers. Just make sure that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are exceptional, it may also help when applying for financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Southside AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the College Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several States do require 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 school. And in several of those States mandating licensing, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required also. So aside from providing an outstanding education, the Southside AL program you choose should also provide the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination and satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and received your interior design certification, you will no doubt 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, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good sign that the school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design trade and its students are in demand. It might also indicate that the school has a substantial network of Southside AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance offices for the Southside AL schools you are looking at and find out what kind of support they provide. Many of interior design colleges offer financial aid to their incoming students. Some schools offer partial scholarships and others provide help in securing federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that enrolling in an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a college that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Small are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Southside AL schools you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Southside home, visit the college and attend a couple of classes. While there talk with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design college you enroll in offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Southside AL, verify that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, verify that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, sickness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Southside Interior Design Colleges

Enroll in the Right Southside Interior Design College

Picking the right interior design college is an important first step toward starting your career in this creative and gratifying occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your education and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting job regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are many factors to consider before choosing a school, program, or course. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design school are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. But it is still important that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with quality training and your desire to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Southside Alabama.