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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Birmingham AL

How to Choose the Right Interior Designer Course

Once you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer degree program near Birmingham AL, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's essential that you obtain the proper 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 examination as well. So it's vital that you carry out the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each program that you are considering before you make your final selection. But exactly where do you start? Many potential students will start their research by looking for interior design schools near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are key factors when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation must be taken into account also. We will address those topics and other crucial questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But first, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training options are offered.

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Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

interior designed living room in Birmingham AL

Some people confuse interior design for interior decoration. The principal difference between the two is the amount of education required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they possess a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. 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 and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make work or living spaces functional as well as attractive. On many projects they may collaborate with building engineers and architects. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Birmingham AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers frequently 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 may specialize in designing one specific room, for example bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When working on commercial or public areas, designers often concentrate primarily on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. For example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are spaces where aesthetics may be focused on over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may focus more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

There are numerous areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, for example color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. They need to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From selecting wall paper and carpeting to including Feng shui principles, Birmingham Alabama interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.
 

Interior Design Degree Programs

There are four degree options offered in interior design to receive the training necessary to launch your new profession in Birmingham AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives as well as 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 choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in some states. More will be addressed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees supply the minimum amount of training required to enter the profession. They take about 2 years to complete and programs are available at numerous Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can typically obtain entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that provide more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative aspects of the business 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 supply advanced training in design after achieving 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. Doctorate degrees are mainly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are typically completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of field experience may be required before an applicant can take the licensing exam.

Why Become an Interior Designer?

Birmingham AL student attending interior design school onlineThere are many options available to you once you graduate and enter the field of interior design.  If you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit you may become self-employed and open your own interior design shop. You might also work for a small or larger design firm. Designers have careers creating interiors for businesses, hospitals, government buildings, as well as private residences. Rarely is a design career a 9 to 5 job. You’ll need to be flexible, patient, and persistent to get your career off the ground. But you will have the opportunity to earn an attractive income as well as the personal satisfaction of creating beautiful living and working spaces.

What to Ask Interior Design Schools

Now that you have chosen the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing your school options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the campus needs to be within driving distance from your Birmingham AL residence. Of course 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 fee for tuition will decrease your options as well. But selecting the cheapest college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you need to consider also, including the accreditation and reputation of the college. Following are a few questions that you may want to ask the colleges you are reviewing to get those answers in addition to others to help you examine and ultimately select the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer Degree Program Accredited? It's necessary to make sure that the interior design college and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive evaluation of their programs and instructors. Just confirm 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 establish that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are outstanding, it might also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Birmingham Alabama employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the College Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some States do mandate that interior designers become 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 college. And in some of those States requiring licensing, two or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. So besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Birmingham AL program you select should also provide the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and earned your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some support in finding your first job. Ask the schools 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 school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design profession and its students are sought after. It may also indicate that the college has a significant network of Birmingham AL business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance offices for the Birmingham AL colleges you are reviewing and ask what type of support they provide. Many of interior designer schools provide financial aid to their new students. Certain schools provide partial scholarships and others provide help in obtaining federal student loans or grants. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a school that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classes? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Birmingham AL colleges you are reviewing what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Birmingham home, go to the college and monitor a couple of 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 backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design program you enroll in provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you plan to continue working while attending school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Choose the Best Interior Designer College near Birmingham Alabama

interior designed kitchen in Birmingham AlabamaChoosing the right interior designer school is an important first step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling profession. Locating a school where you will obtain your education and cultivate your talents in a specific area of study is a daunting task regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are several points to think about before selecting a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the program and design college are both accredited and highly respected in the field. But it is still imperative that you conduct your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare interior design programs so that you can make the right final selection. And with superior training and your desire to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Birmingham Alabama.