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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Birmingham AL

How to Choose the Best Interior Design Degree Program

Once you have made a decision to enroll in an interior designer college near Birmingham AL, it's time to start the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's imperative that you receive the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do require that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's essential that you carry out the appropriate research in order to analyze and compare each college that you are considering prior to making your ultimate choice. But just where do you start? A number of prospective students will begin their research by searching for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are important variables when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation should be considered as well. We will discuss those topics and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are researching later in this article. But before we do, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class alternatives are offered.

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Interior Design vs Interior Decoration

interior designed living room in Birmingham AL

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

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers typically work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design essentially any room of the home, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one specific room, for instance bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When dealing with commercial or public spaces, designers frequently focus predominantly 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 stressed over function. Designs for banks and hospitals may focus more on functionality over appearance as the primary concern.

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to learn, such as color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. 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 integrating Feng shui principles, Birmingham Alabama interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that contribute to their final designs.
 

Interior Designer Training Programs

There are four degree options available in interior design to get the training needed to begin your new profession in Birmingham AL. Your choice will undoubtedly be motivated by your career objectives in addition to the time and money that you have to invest in your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in some states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take about two years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide 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 graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced design training after acquiring a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialized majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are mostly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university 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 mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In several instances, two or more years of professional experience may be needed before an applicant can take the licensing exam.

Interior Design Online Degree Programs

Birmingham AL student attending interior design school onlineFor those who wish to study in the comfort of their Birmingham AL homes, there are online accredited interior design classes. Attending classes online can be a good alternative for those students that are employed or have busy schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For a number of students online colleges may be the sole alternative if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Added costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the college you pick is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the discipline to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.

Subjects to Ask Interior Design Programs

When you have decided on the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can start the process of assessing your school options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the college needs to be within commuting distance from your Birmingham AL residence. Of course if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The expense for tuition will narrow down your options also. But choosing the cheapest college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other factors that you should consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a few concerns that you may want to address with the schools you are considering to get those answers in addition to others to help you assess and ultimately pick the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's necessary to make sure that the interior design college and program that you select has earned accreditation from 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 instructors and programs. Just verify that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help confirm that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are outstanding, it might also help when obtaining financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Birmingham Alabama employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the Program 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 as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in several of those States mandating licensing, at least 2 years of occupational experience may be required as well. Therefore in addition to providing an outstanding education, the Birmingham AL school you choose should also furnish the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will no doubt need some support in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the school and its programs are highly esteemed within the interior design field and its graduates are sought after. It may also indicate that the college has a large network of Birmingham AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Get in touch with the financial assistance offices for the Birmingham AL colleges you are evaluating and ask what kind of assistance they provide. Many of interior design programs provide financial assistance to their incoming students. Some schools offer partial scholarships and others provide support in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited school is essential for qualification in most cases. In some cases a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive little individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Birmingham AL colleges you are reviewing what their average teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Birmingham home, visit the school and sit in on 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 Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior design school you enroll in provides classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is especially significant if you plan to continue working while attending school. 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 as well. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Enroll in the Best Interior Design Program 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 artistic and gratifying occupation. Finding a school where you will receive your education and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a daunting job no matter what field you have selected. As with any undertaking to receive an advanced education, there are a number of factors to think about before choosing a school, program, or course. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the field. However it is still important that you carry out your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with quality training and your desire to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Birmingham Alabama.