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How to Select the Best Interior Design Course near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design school near Southside AL, it's time to begin the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's imperative that you receive the proper training to put your talents to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's crucial that you perform the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each school that you are looking at before you make your final decision. But just where do you begin? Many prospective students will kick off their research by searching for interior design schools near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are important factors when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into consideration also. We will discuss those issues and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are researching later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class alternatives are offered.

Interior Design compared to Interior Decoration

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Many people mistake interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The key distinction between them 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 areas. However, doing business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make living or work spaces functional as well as attractive. On various occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are two 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 essentially any area of a house, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one particular room, for instance bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with public or commercial spaces, designers frequently focus predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. As an example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for hospitals and banks might 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 color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. They must be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui concepts, Southside AL interior designers employ a wide range of skills that contribute to their ultimate designs.

Interior Designer Degrees

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There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to receive the training required to begin your new career in Southside AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be motivated by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you choose to enroll in, make certain to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in some states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum amount of training needed to enter the profession. They take about two years to complete and programs are offered at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that supply more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative aspects of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialized majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are largely for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are generally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be needed before a candidate can sit for the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to attend classes in the comfort of their Southside AL homes, there are online accredited interior design degrees. Studying online can be a good 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 home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For many students online schools may be the sole alternative if no interior design schools are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the program 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the dedication to acquire your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design college may be the ideal alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Design Schools

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Now that you have chosen the interior design degree that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of analyzing your school options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the campus must be within driving distance from your Southside AL residence. 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 cost of tuition will limit your options also. But choosing the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other things that you should consider as well, such as the accreditation and reputation of the college. Following are a few concerns that you may want to ask the programs you are looking at to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you assess and subsequently pick the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior designer program and college that you select has earned accreditation from either a national or regional organization. One of the most highly regarded in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding assessment of their teachers and programs. Just verify that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are excellent, it might also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Southside AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, a number of States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam as well as a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States requiring licensing, two or more years of work experience may be required also. So aside from providing an outstanding education, the Southside AL school you select should also provide the suitable instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior design certification, you will undoubtedly need some assistance in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are looking at if they have a job assistance program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent indication that the college and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design profession and its students are sought after. It may also signify that the school has a sizable network of Southside AL business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Southside AL schools you are looking at and find out what type of assistance they offer. Many of interior designer schools offer financial aid to their incoming students. Various colleges provide partial scholarships and others provide support in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited program is essential for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper 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 instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Southside AL programs you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Southside home, go to the school and sit in on a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior design school you choose offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Southside AL, make certain that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, sickness or family obligations.

Learn More About Online Interior Design Programs

Enroll in the Right Southside Interior Design Program

Picking the ideal interior design college is a critical initial step toward launching your career in this creative and rewarding occupation. Locating a school where you will receive your training and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a daunting task no matter what field you have decided on. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are several points to consider before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, make sure that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the profession. But it is still imperative that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to effectively review and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your determination to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Southside Alabama.