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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Birmingham AL

How to Pick the Best Interior Design School

Once you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer school near Birmingham AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's essential that you get the right training to put your skills to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's essential that you carry out the appropriate research in order to evaluate and compare each college that you are considering prior to making your final decision. But where do you start? A number of future students will launch their research by looking for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are key variables when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation must be taken into consideration as well. We will cover those topics and other important questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training options are offered.

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Interior Decoration and Interior Design

interior designed living room in Birmingham AL

Often people confuse interior decoration for interior design. The principal distinction between the two is the level of training required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they possess a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, working as an interior designer requires 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 living spaces functional as well as attractive. On many projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Birmingham AL can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers frequently work on new construction and existing homes. They can design basically any room of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one specific room, for instance kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Designing. When dealing with commercial or public spaces, designers normally concentrate predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. As an example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are areas where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may focus more on functionality over appearance as the main concern.

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, such as color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. They must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to including Feng shui principles, Birmingham Alabama interior designers implement a wide range of skills that contribute to their final creations.
 

Interior Design Degrees

There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to acquire the training needed to begin your new career in Birmingham AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be motivated by your career objectives as well as the time and money that you have budgeted to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in some states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of training required to enter the field. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical facets of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced design training after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are primarily for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are normally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be called for before a candidate can take the licensing exam.

Online Interior Designer Classes

Birmingham AL student attending interior design school onlineFor individuals who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Birmingham AL homes, there are online accredited interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a good alternative for those students that are working or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For many students online programs may be the sole option if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Additional expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the college you pick is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, 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 online or distance learning. If you have the dedication to obtain your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design program may be the perfect alternative for you.

Subjects to Ask Interior Designer Schools

Now that you have decided on the interior design degree that you would like to earn, you can start the task of analyzing your school options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the college must be within driving distance from your Birmingham AL home. Obviously if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The cost of tuition will decrease your choices as well. But picking the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other issues that you need to look at also, including the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the schools you are considering to get those answers in addition to others to help you compare and subsequently choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's important to make sure that the interior designer school and program that you choose 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). Colleges obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding assessment 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 recognized accrediting organization. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are excellent, it may also help when securing financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Birmingham Alabama employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do mandate that interior designers get 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 school. And in several of those States calling for licensing, at least 2 years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore aside from furnishing an exceptional education, the Birmingham AL college you enroll in should also furnish the proper education to pass the NCIDQ examination and comply with the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will no doubt want some help in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job placement program. If yes, ask 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 sought after. It could also signify that the college has a sizable network of Birmingham AL business relationships where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Available? Contact the financial aid offices for the Birmingham AL colleges you are looking at and find out what kind of aid they provide. A number of interior design colleges offer financial assistance to their new students. Certain colleges offer partial scholarships and others provide assistance in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that selecting an accredited program is imperative for qualification in most cases. In some cases a school that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Small are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive little individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Birmingham AL programs you are reviewing what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Birmingham home, go to the school and attend a few classes. While there talk with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior designer program you choose provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially significant if you plan to continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make certain that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Enroll in the Right Interior Design Program near Birmingham Alabama

interior designed kitchen in Birmingham AlabamaChoosing the ideal interior design school is an important first step toward starting your career in this artistic and rewarding profession. Locating a college where you will receive your education and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a challenging task no matter what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are several points to consider before choosing a school, program, or course. At a minimum, confirm that the design college and program are both accredited and highly esteemed in the profession. However it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to properly review and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Birmingham Alabama.