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How to Select the Right Interior Design College near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama interior designed living roomOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer college near Valley AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's imperative that you receive the right training to put your natural abilities 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 as well. So it's essential that you do the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each program that you are considering before you make your ultimate decision. But where do you begin? A number of potential students will start their research by looking for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are relevant issues when making a decision, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation must be taken into consideration also. We will address those issues and other crucial questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are reviewing 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 and Interior Decoration

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Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration and conversely. The main distinction between the two is the amount of training required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. However, working as an interior designer requires formal training and in many states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living areas functional as well as attractive. On some projects they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Valley AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often 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 example kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Designing. When working on commercial or public spaces, 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 may concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, such as color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers need to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui concepts, Valley AL interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degrees

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There are four degree options available in interior design to acquire the training needed to begin your new profession in Valley AL. Your selection will no doubt be influenced by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to invest in 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 take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in a number of states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take roughly two years to finish and programs are offered at many 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 extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical facets 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 job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced training in design after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialized majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mainly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs differ in length but are generally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited degree programs 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 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 good alternative for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make attending classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For some students online schools may be the sole alternative 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 commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated as well. Just make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also acquire 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 right option for you.

What to Ask Interior Designer Colleges

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Once you have selected the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of analyzing your school options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the campus must be within driving distance from your Valley AL home. Naturally if you have decided on attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The fee for tuition will limit your choices also. But picking the least expensive college or the one that is closest to home are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other things that you should look at also, including the accreditation and reputation of the college. Below are a few questions that you may want to address with the programs you are reviewing to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you compare and ultimately select the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer Degree Program Accredited? It's imperative to confirm that the interior designer program and college that you enroll in has earned accreditation from 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 receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding evaluation of their teachers and programs. 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 education are outstanding, it might also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Valley AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the College Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do mandate 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, 2 or more years of work experience may be required as well. So aside from furnishing an excellent education, the Valley AL college you enroll in should also provide the appropriate education 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? Once you have graduated and earned your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some support in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent sign that the school and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design profession and its graduates are sought after. It could also indicate that the college has a large network of Valley AL business relationships where they can place students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Contact the financial aid offices for the Valley AL colleges you are evaluating and ask what type of aid they provide. Many of interior designer schools offer financial aid to their new students. Certain colleges offer partial scholarships while others provide help in acquiring federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that enrolling in an accredited program is imperative for qualification in most cases. In some cases a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Valley AL colleges you are looking at what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Valley home, visit the school and sit in on a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design college you choose provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially significant if you plan to continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Valley AL, make certain that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, check that is an option as well. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Find Out More About Valley Interior Design Colleges

Choose in the Best Valley Interior Design College

Selecting the right interior designer college is an important first step toward starting your career in this artistic and rewarding occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your education and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a challenging job no matter what major you have selected. As with any endeavor to receive an advanced education, there are a number of things to think about before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design college are both accredited and highly regarded in the field. But it is still essential that you conduct your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare interior design programs so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with superior training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Valley Alabama.