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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Birmingham AL

How to Select the Right Interior Design Course

Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior design college near Birmingham AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's imperative that you obtain the appropriate 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 exam also. So it's vital that you carry out the appropriate research so that you can evaluate and compare each program that you are considering before you make your final selection. But exactly where do you begin? Many potential students will kick off their research by looking for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are important variables when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation should be taken into consideration as well. We will address those topics and other important questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are researching later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class alternatives are offered.

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Interior Decoration and Interior Design

interior designed living room in Birmingham AL

Many people mistake interior design for interior decoration. The main distinction between them is the level of education required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. However, conducting business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in a number of states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make living or work areas attractive as well as functional. On many occasions they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Birmingham AL can 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 specific room, such as kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Design. When working on commercial or public spaces, designers normally concentrate predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. As an example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are spaces where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for banks and hospitals might concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the primary consideration.

There are various areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, for example lighting, color schemes, furniture and acoustics. They have to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to create their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui principles, Birmingham Alabama interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that contribute to their final designs.
 

Interior Design Degree Programs

There are four degree alternatives offered in interior design to acquire the training required to start your new career in Birmingham AL. Your decision will undoubtedly be motivated by your career goals in addition to the money and time that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you opt 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 mandated in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of education needed to enter the field. They take approximately two years to finish and programs are offered at a number of Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can usually obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical facets of the business needed to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate 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 provide choices in specialized majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are mostly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs differ in length but are usually completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of 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 exam.

Online Interior Designer Degree Programs

Birmingham AL student attending interior design school onlineFor individuals who wish to attend classes in the comfort of their Birmingham AL homes, there are online accredited interior design schools. Attending classes online can be a great alternative for those students that are employed or have busy schedules that make attending classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For many students online schools may be the sole option if no interior design programs are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Added expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the college you enroll in is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online colleges may also receive 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 structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.

What to Ask Interior Designer Schools

When you have selected the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the task of reviewing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, especially if the college needs to be within driving distance from your Birmingham AL home. Naturally if you are interested in attending an online school, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your options also. But picking the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other things that you should consider as well, including the accreditation and reputation of the program. Below are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the colleges you are considering to get those answers in addition to others to help you compare and subsequently select the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's necessary to confirm that the interior design college and program that you select has been accredited by either a regional or national 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 instructors and programs. Just verify that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are outstanding, it may also help when securing financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Birmingham Alabama employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.

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 some of those States mandating licensing, two or more years of professional experience may be required also. Therefore aside from furnishing an outstanding education, the Birmingham AL school you choose should also provide the proper education to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and received your interior designer certification, you will no doubt want some help in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are looking at if they have a job assistance program. If so, 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 regard within the interior design trade and its graduates are in demand. It may also signify that the school has a substantial network of Birmingham AL business connections where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Birmingham AL colleges you are looking at and ask what type of assistance they offer. Many of interior designer schools offer financial aid to their new students. Various schools offer partial scholarships while others provide assistance in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that selecting an accredited program is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Big are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Birmingham AL programs you are considering what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Birmingham home, visit the college and attend a few classes. Take the opportunity to speak with some students and ask 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, verify that the interior design college you choose offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, verify that is an option also. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, sickness or family obligations.

Enroll in the Right Interior Design Program near Birmingham Alabama

interior designed kitchen in Birmingham AlabamaSelecting the right interior designer college is a critical first step toward launching your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Finding a college where you will receive your education and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a challenging task no matter what major you have selected. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are many things to consider before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, make sure that the design college and program are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. But it is still important that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design schools so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Birmingham Alabama.