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How to Choose the Right Interior Design School near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama interior designed living room with viewOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer degree program near Valley 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 essential that you receive the right training to put your skills to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's very important that you do the appropriate research so that you can analyze and compare each program that you are considering before you make your ultimate decision. But just where do you start? Many future students will start their research by looking for interior design programs near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are relevant issues when making a determination, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation must be considered also. We will address those issues and other important questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But first, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training choices are available.

Interior Decoration and Interior Design

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Often people confuse interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The principal distinction between the two is the amount of education required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, doing business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in numerous states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or living spaces functional as well as attractive. On some projects they may collaborate with building engineers and architects. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Valley AL may specialize in:

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

There are several areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, including color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. They must be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From choosing carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui concepts, Valley AL interior designers employ a wide range of skills that contribute to their final creations.

Interior Design Training Programs

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There are 4 degree options available in interior design to acquire the training necessary to start your new career in Valley AL. Your choice will no doubt be motivated by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to invest in your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination 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 supply the minimum level of education needed to enter the profession. They take roughly 2 years to finish and programs are offered at numerous Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally obtain entry level positions 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 technical and creative aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs supply advanced training in design after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialized majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are largely for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs vary in length but are generally completed in three to five years.

To work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states mandate that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can take the licensing examination.

Interior Design Online Programs

For those who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Valley AL homes, there are online accredited interior design degrees. Attending classes online can be a great alternative for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For some students online colleges may be the sole option if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Added costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated as well. Just make certain that the college you select is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design college may be the right alternative for you.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Schools

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Now that you have selected the interior designer degree that you would like to earn, you can start the process of assessing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the school must be within commuting distance from your Valley AL residence. Naturally if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will limit your options as well. But selecting the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other things that you should look at also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a list of questions that you may want to address with the colleges you are looking at to get those answers as well as others in order to help you assess and ultimately pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's important to make sure that the interior design school and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through an extensive 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 acknowledged accrediting organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are outstanding, it may also help when obtaining financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, many Valley AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some States do mandate 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 college. And in several of those States requiring licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required as well. So besides furnishing an excellent education, the Valley AL program you enroll in should also provide the appropriate education to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and received your interior design certification, you will no doubt need some support in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job placement program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design trade and its graduates are in demand. It may also indicate that the college has a sizable network of Valley AL business contacts where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Valley AL colleges you are evaluating and ask what type of assistance they provide. A number of interior design colleges provide financial aid to their new students. Various schools offer partial scholarships while others provide support in securing federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited program is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Small are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Valley AL programs you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Valley home, go to the college and sit in on a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to talk with a few 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? Last, confirm that the interior design program you enroll in provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Valley AL, make certain that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, check that is an alternative as well. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Online Interior Design Courses

Choose in the Right Valley Interior Design Program

Selecting the ideal interior designer school is a crucial initial step toward launching your career in this artistic and rewarding profession. Finding a college where you will obtain your education and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a daunting task no matter what field you have selected. As with any endeavor to attain a higher education, there are many things to think about before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design college are both accredited and highly esteemed in the profession. However it is still imperative that you carry out your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly assess 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 accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Valley Alabama.