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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Birmingham AL

How to Choose the Right Interior Designer Program

Once you have decided to enroll in an interior design college near Birmingham AL, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's essential that you obtain the right training to put your talents to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's vital that you do the appropriate research so that you can evaluate and compare each college that you are looking at prior to making your ultimate selection. But exactly where do you start? Some future students will launch their research by looking for interior design courses near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are key issues 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 topics and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are reviewing 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 alternatives are offered.

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Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

interior designed living room in Birmingham AL

Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design. The primary distinction between the two is the amount of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential areas attractive as well as functional. On various projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Birmingham AL may specialize in:

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

There are various areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, for example lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. Designers have to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui concepts, Birmingham Alabama interior designers employ a wide range of skills that help bring about their final designs.
 

Interior Design Training Programs

There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to acquire the training required to start your new profession in Birmingham AL. Your choice will no doubt be influenced by your career goals in addition to the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required 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. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum level of education required to enter the profession. They take about two years to complete and programs are offered at many Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can commonly obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate 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 acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialty majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs vary in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

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

Questions to Ask Interior Design Schools

Birmingham Alabama interior designer bathroomNow that you have selected the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of reviewing your college options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the college has to be within driving distance from your Birmingham AL home. Obviously if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will narrow down your choices as well. But picking the least expensive college or the one that is closest to home are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other things that you should consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Below are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the schools you are reviewing to get those answers in addition to others to help you assess and subsequently pick the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer Degree Program Accredited? It's essential to verify that the interior designer school and program that you select has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding evaluation of their instructors 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 organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are exceptional, it may also help when securing financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Birmingham Alabama employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, 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 school. And in some of those States requiring licensing, a minimum of 2 years of occupational experience may be required also. So besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Birmingham AL program you enroll in should also furnish the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will probably want some help in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job assistance program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent indication that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design profession and its graduates are in demand. It might also indicate that the college has a substantial network of Birmingham AL business relationships where they can place students to obtain internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Birmingham AL colleges you are evaluating and find out what kind of assistance they provide. Many of interior design colleges offer financial aid to their new students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships and others provide assistance in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that enrolling in an accredited college is imperative for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a school that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Birmingham AL programs you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Birmingham home, visit the school and sit in on a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with a few 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 Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design program you select provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you plan to continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, verify that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Choose the Right Interior Design College near Birmingham Alabama

interior designed kitchen in Birmingham AlabamaSelecting the right interior designer program is a crucial initial step toward launching your career in this creative and rewarding occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your training and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a daunting task no matter what field you have decided on. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are a number of points to think about before choosing a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly esteemed in the field. However it is still important that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to effectively review and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Birmingham Alabama.