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How to Enroll in the Right Interior Design Degree Program Cottondale Alabama

Cottondale Alabama elegant interior designed bathroomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Cottondale AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's important that you get the proper training to put your talents to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's essential that you do the appropriate research so that you can evaluate and compare each college that you are looking at prior to making your final decision. But where do you begin? Many future students will kick off their research by searching for interior design schools near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are important issues when making a determination, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will address those issues and other vital questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are looking at later in this article. But before we do, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training options are offered.

Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design

modern Cottondale Alabama interior designed business meeting room

Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The key distinction between the two is the amount of training required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer necessitates a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or living spaces functional as well as attractive. On some projects they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Cottondale AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers typically work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any area of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, for instance bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Designing. When working on public or commercial areas, designers frequently focus predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be focused on over function. Designs for banks and hospitals might concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the main concern.

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, including color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers have to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to create their visions. From selecting carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui principles, Cottondale AL interior designers implement a wide range of skills that help bring about their final designs.

Interior Design Degree Options

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There are four degree options available in interior design to obtain the training required to start your new career in Cottondale AL. Your decision will no doubt be driven by your career objectives in addition to the time and money that you have budgeted to invest in your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in some states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum level of education needed to enter the field. They take roughly two years to finish and programs are available at a number of Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can normally qualify for entry level employment 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 lowest credential needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs supply advanced training in design after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialized majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mostly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are normally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of professional experience may be needed before an applicant can take the licensing exam.

Online Interior Designer Degree Programs

For students who to attend classes in the comfort of their Cottondale AL homes, there are online accredited interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a good solution for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For some students online programs may be the sole option if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Added expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be decreased or eliminated also. Just be sure that the program you choose is accredited by a highly regarded 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 online or distance learning. 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.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Programs

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Now that you have decided on the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the task of assessing your school options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the college must be within commuting distance from your Cottondale AL residence. Obviously if you have decided on attending a school online, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your choices as well. But choosing the least expensive school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other issues that you need to consider also, including the accreditation and reputation of the school. Following are a list of questions that you may want to ask the schools you are looking at to get those answers as well as others to help you assess and ultimately pick the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's important to verify that the interior designer program and college that you enroll in has earned accreditation from either a national or regional organization. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just make sure 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 confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are exceptional, it might also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Cottondale AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in addition to a degree from an accredited school. And in some of those States mandating licensing, at least 2 years of occupational experience may be required as well. So aside from furnishing an exceptional education, the Cottondale AL college you enroll in should also furnish the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ examination and satisfy the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior designer certification, you will no doubt need some help in finding your first position. 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 high rate is an excellent sign that the school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design trade and its students are in demand. It may also indicate that the school has a substantial network of Cottondale AL business relationships where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Cottondale AL schools you are looking at and find out what type of aid they offer. A number of interior design colleges offer financial assistance to their new students. Certain colleges offer partial scholarships and others provide assistance in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may effectively 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 large, you probably will receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Cottondale AL colleges you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Cottondale home, visit the college and attend a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to speak with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Last, make certain that the interior designer school you choose provides classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Cottondale AL, verify that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, verify that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Find Out More About Online Cottondale Interior Design Programs

Pick the Right Cottondale Interior Design Program

Picking the right interior designer program is an important initial step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your training and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting job regardless of what major you have selected. As with any undertaking to acquire a higher education, there are a number of points to think about before selecting a program, course or school. At a minimum, confirm that the design college and program are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. However it is still imperative that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right final selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Cottondale AL.