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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Tuscaloosa AL

How to Select the Right Interior Designer Program

Once you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Tuscaloosa 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 spaces, it's imperative that you receive the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's very important that you carry out the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each program that you are reviewing prior to making your final decision. But where do you start? A number of prospective students will start their research by looking for interior design schools near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are key factors when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into consideration as well. We will discuss those issues and other vital questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are interested in 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 Design compared to Interior Decoration

interior designed living room in Tuscaloosa AL

Many people mistake interior design for interior decoration. The primary difference between the two is the level of training required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill 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 Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or residential areas attractive as well as functional. On various occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Tuscaloosa AL may specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often work on new construction and existing homes. They can design essentially any area of a house, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one particular room, for instance kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Designing. When dealing with public or commercial areas, designers frequently focus predominantly 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 stressed over function. Designs for banks and hospitals might concentrate more on functionality over looks as the main consideration.

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

Interior Designer Degree Options

There are four degree alternatives offered in interior design to get the training needed to start your new profession in Tuscaloosa AL. Your choice will no doubt be influenced by your career objectives in addition to the time and money that you have budgeted to invest in your education. But regardless of which degree program you choose to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in some states. More will be discussed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum level of education needed to enter the field. They take about 2 years to finish and programs are available at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can normally qualify for entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that supply more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative facets of the business required to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced design training after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialty majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are mostly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The programs vary in length but are usually completed in three to five years.

To work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of 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 sit for the licensing exam.

Online Interior Design Colleges

Tuscaloosa AL student attending interior design school onlineFor individuals who wish to study in the convenience of their Tuscaloosa AL homes, there are online accredited interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a good option for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when convenient for the student. For some students online programs may be the sole option if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more conventional options. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be decreased or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the college you choose is accredited by a recognized 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 earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design school may be the ideal alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Designer Colleges

Once you have decided on the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the task of reviewing your college options. Location will be an important factor, particularly if the campus has to be within driving distance from your Tuscaloosa AL residence. Of course if you have decided on attending a school online, or are able to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The fee for tuition will narrow down your options also. But selecting the cheapest school or the one that is closest to your house are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you need to look at also, including the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a list of questions that you may want to address with the programs you are considering to get those answers as well as others to help you compare and subsequently choose the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Design Degree Program Accredited? It's essential to confirm that the interior design program and school that you choose has earned accreditation from either a national or regional organization. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools receiving accreditation from the NASAD have gone through an extensive evaluation of their programs and instructors. 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 verify that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are outstanding, it may also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, many Tuscaloosa Alabama employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level positions.

Does the Program Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, some States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States mandating licensing, a minimum of 2 years of work experience may be required as well. Therefore besides providing an exceptional education, the Tuscaloosa AL program you choose should also furnish the suitable instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy 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 no doubt want some help in finding your first position. Ask the schools that you are looking at if they have a job assistance program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good indication that the college and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design trade and its students are sought after. It might also indicate that the school has a substantial network of Tuscaloosa AL business relationships where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Tuscaloosa AL colleges you are evaluating and ask what kind of aid they offer. A number of interior design schools offer financial assistance to their incoming students. Various colleges offer partial scholarships and others provide support in obtaining grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that selecting an accredited program is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a program that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classes? Small classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are considering what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Tuscaloosa home, visit the campus and attend a few classes. Take the opportunity to talk with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, confirm that the interior design school you select offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, sickness or family obligations.

Enroll in the Best Interior Designer School near Tuscaloosa Alabama

interior designed kitchen in Tuscaloosa AlabamaPicking the right interior design college is a critical first step toward launching your career in this artistic and gratifying occupation. Finding a school where you will receive your training and cultivate your talents in a specific area of study is a challenging job no matter what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire a higher education, there are many points to think about before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly esteemed in the business. However it is still important that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design colleges 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 Tuscaloosa Alabama.