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How to Choose the Right Interior Designer Degree Program Level Plains Alabama

Level Plains Alabama elegant interior designed bathroomOnce you have decided to enroll in an interior design degree program near Level Plains AL, it's time to start the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's important that you get the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do require that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's vital that you carry out the appropriate research so that you can analyze and compare each school that you are considering prior to making your final selection. But exactly where do you start? A number of future students will begin their research by searching for interior design schools near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key variables when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration as well. We will address those issues and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are researching later in this article. But first, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class alternatives are available.

Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design

modern Level Plains Alabama interior designed corporate meeting room

Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design and conversely. The principal distinction between them is the amount of education required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, doing business 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 living or work areas functional as well as attractive. On many projects they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Level Plains AL can specialize in:

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

There are numerous areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, including lighting, color schemes, furniture and acoustics. They 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 integrating Feng shui concepts, Level Plains AL interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.

Interior Designer Degree Options

spacious Level Plains Alabama interior designed living room

There are four degree options offered in interior design to receive the training necessary to begin your new profession in Level Plains AL. Your decision will undoubtedly be driven by your career goals as well as the time and money that you have to devote to your education. But regardless of 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 mandated in a number of states. More will be covered on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of training needed to enter the profession. They take about two years to complete and programs are available at a number of Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative facets of the business needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialized majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mostly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are generally 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 colleges become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required before an applicant can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Classes

For those who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Level Plains AL homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Attending classes online can be an excellent option for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For a number of students online colleges may be the only alternative if no interior design schools are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Added costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated also. Just be sure that the program you choose is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, 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 online or distance education. If you have the discipline to obtain your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the right alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Designer Programs

open Level Plains Alabama interior designed chef's kitchen

Now that you have decided on the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can start the process of evaluating your college options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the campus needs to be within driving distance from your Level Plains AL home. Obviously if you have decided on attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will limit your options also. But choosing the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other variables that you should look at also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the programs you are looking at to obtain those answers as well as others to help you examine and subsequently choose the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's important to verify that the interior design school and program that you choose 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). Colleges receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive 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 acknowledged accrediting agency. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are excellent, it may also help when obtaining financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, many Level Plains AL employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in several of those States requiring licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from providing an outstanding education, the Level Plains AL school you enroll in should also furnish the proper training to pass the NCIDQ exam and meet the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and received your interior design certification, you will undoubtedly want some support in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job placement program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the college and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design trade and its graduates are sought after. It could also indicate that the college has a sizable network of Level Plains AL business relationships where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the Level Plains AL colleges you are evaluating and find out what type of support they offer. A number of interior designer programs provide financial assistance to their incoming students. Some colleges offer partial scholarships and others provide assistance in securing grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Big are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Level Plains AL programs you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Level Plains home, go to the school and attend 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 credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design college you enroll in offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Level Plains AL, verify that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, verify that is an option also. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Accredited Level Plains Interior Design Courses

Choose the Ideal Level Plains Interior Design College

Selecting the right interior design college is an important first step toward launching your career in this artistic and fulfilling profession. Locating a college where you will obtain your education and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult job no matter what major you have chosen. As with any endeavor to attain a higher education, there are a number of points to consider before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design college are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. However 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 effectively evaluate and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right final selection. And with excellent training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Level Plains AL.