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How to Find the Right Interior Designer Program Highland Lakes Alabama

Highland Lakes Alabama elegant interior designed custom bathroomOnce you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer school near Highland Lakes AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's imperative that you obtain the proper training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's crucial that you do the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each college that you are considering prior to making your ultimate decision. But just where do you begin? Some prospective students will kick off their research by searching for interior design programs near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are important issues when making a decision, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration as well. We will discuss those issues and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are looking at 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 vs Interior Design

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Often people confuse interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The main distinction between the two is the amount of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general 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 Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make living or work spaces functional as well as attractive. On many occasions they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Highland Lakes AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any area of the home, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one specific room, for instance kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with public or commercial areas, designers normally concentrate primarily on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but pay attention to both. For example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are spaces where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the primary concern.

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. They have to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From selecting carpeting and wall paper to including Feng shui concepts, Highland Lakes AL interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that help bring about their ultimate creations.

Interior Design Degree Options

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There are four degree alternatives offered in interior design to receive the training needed to launch your new profession in Highland Lakes AL. Your decision 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 no matter which degree program you choose to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed 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. Following are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum amount of education required to enter the profession. They take roughly two years to complete and programs are available at a number of Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical components of the business 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 two year programs supply advanced design training after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer 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 the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mainly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are usually completed in three to five years.

To work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of professional experience may be needed before a candidate can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Designer Online Schools

For those who wish to attend classes in the comfort of their Highland Lakes AL homes, there are online accredited interior design colleges. Studying online can be a great alternative for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For a number of students online programs may be the only alternative if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be decreased or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the program you pick is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. If you have the discipline to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the perfect alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Designer Programs

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Now that you have chosen the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing your college options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the campus has to be within commuting distance from your Highland Lakes AL residence. Obviously if you have decided on attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will limit your options as well. But selecting the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you need to consider as well, such as the accreditation and reputation of the program. Following are a list of questions 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 examine and ultimately select the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's essential to verify that the interior designer school and program that you choose 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 receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous assessment 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 training are excellent, it may also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, many Highland Lakes AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited schools for entry level positions.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do mandate that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination as well as a degree from an accredited college. And in some of those States requiring licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required also. So besides furnishing an exceptional education, the Highland Lakes AL college you enroll in should also provide the proper training to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy 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 attained your interior designer certification, you will no doubt want some assistance in finding your first job. Ask the schools that you are considering 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 field and its graduates are in demand. It may also indicate that the school has a large network of Highland Lakes AL business relationships where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Contact the financial aid offices for the Highland Lakes AL schools you are reviewing and find out what type of assistance they provide. A number of interior design colleges provide financial assistance to their new students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships and others provide assistance in securing federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a school that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its competitors because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Highland Lakes AL schools you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Highland Lakes home, visit the college and sit in on a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to speak with a few students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design college you select offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Highland Lakes AL, make certain that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an option as well. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Online Highland Lakes Interior Design Colleges

Select the Ideal Highland Lakes Interior Design Program

Choosing the right interior design college is an important first step toward starting your career in this artistic and gratifying profession. Searching for a school where you will receive your training and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a difficult task no matter what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are a number of factors to think about before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, verify that the program and design college are both accredited and highly regarded in the field. However it is still important that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to effectively assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right final selection. And with superior training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Highland Lakes AL.