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How to Choose the Best Interior Design Degree Program near Theodore Alabama

Theodore Alabama interior designed living room with entertainment centerNow that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Theodore AL, it's time to start the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's essential that you get the proper training to put your talents to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's crucial that you carry out the proper research so that you can assess and compare each program that you are considering prior to making your ultimate decision. But exactly where do you begin? Some prospective students will start their research by searching for interior design courses near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are relevant variables when making a decision, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account as well. We will cover those issues and other crucial questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are looking at later in this article. But before we do, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class choices are offered.

Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design

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Some people confuse interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The main distinction between them is the level of training required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, conducting business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential spaces functional as well as attractive. On some projects they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Theodore AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers often work on new construction and existing homes. They can design essentially any room of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, for example bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with public or commercial areas, designers often concentrate predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are spaces where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for banks and hospitals might concentrate more on functionality over looks as the primary consideration.

There are many areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to 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 picking wall paper and carpeting to integrating Feng shui concepts, Theodore AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that contribute to their final creations.

Interior Design Degree Programs

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There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to receive the training needed to start your new profession in Theodore AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be driven by your career goals as well as the time and money that you have to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you choose 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 required in some states. More will be covered on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum amount of education required to enter the field. They take about two years to complete and programs are offered at many Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative facets of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced design training after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialty majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are mostly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs differ in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally 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 professional experience may be required before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Programs

For individuals who wish to study in the comfort of their Theodore AL homes, there are online accredited interior design degrees. Studying online can be an excellent solution for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For a number of students online schools may be the sole alternative if no interior design colleges are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional 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 respected accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. If you have the discipline to obtain your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design college may be the ideal alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Design Programs

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Once you have chosen the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can start the task of analyzing your school options. Location will be a critical factor, especially if the campus has to be within commuting distance from your Theodore AL home. Obviously if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The cost of tuition will narrow down your choices also. But choosing the cheapest college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other variables that you need to look at as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a few questions that you may want to address with the colleges you are looking at to get those answers in addition to others to help you examine and ultimately choose the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's essential to make sure that the interior designer school and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a regional or national agency. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just verify that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are excellent, it might also help when securing financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Theodore AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in addition to a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of professional experience may be required also. So in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Theodore AL college you choose should also furnish the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly want some assistance in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good indication that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design field and its students are in demand. It could also signify that the college has a substantial network of Theodore AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Theodore AL schools you are evaluating and ask what kind of assistance they offer. Many of interior designer colleges offer financial aid to their new students. Various colleges provide partial scholarships and others provide assistance in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a program that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Big are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Theodore AL schools you are reviewing what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Theodore home, visit the campus and sit in on a few classes. Take the opportunity to speak with a few 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 Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, make certain that the interior designer school you select offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Theodore AL, make sure that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, check that is an alternative also. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, sickness or family obligations.

Learn More About Theodore Interior Design Colleges

Enroll in the Best Theodore Interior Design Program

Choosing the ideal interior designer college is a critical initial step toward launching your career in this artistic and gratifying occupation. Finding a college where you will obtain your education and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting job no matter what field you have selected. As with any endeavor to receive an advanced education, there are several points to think about before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, check 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 remaining recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with excellent training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Theodore Alabama.