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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Tuscaloosa AL

How to Select the Right Interior Designer School

Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior designer degree program near Tuscaloosa 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 spaces, it's imperative that you get the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do require that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's crucial that you perform the proper research in order to analyze and compare each school that you are reviewing before you make your final decision. But where do you start? A number of future students will begin their research by looking for interior design programs near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are relevant issues when making a decision, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration 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 first, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training choices are available.

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Interior Design and Interior Decoration

interior designed living room in Tuscaloosa AL

Often people confuse interior design for interior decoration. The key distinction between the two is the level of training 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, conducting business as an interior designer requires formal training and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make living or work areas functional as well as attractive. On some projects they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Tuscaloosa AL may specialize in:

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

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

Interior Designer Training Programs

There are four degree options available in interior design to acquire the training necessary to begin your new profession in Tuscaloosa AL. Your choice will no doubt be motivated by your career goals as well as the time and money that you have to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you choose to enroll in, make certain to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required 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 benefits of accreditation later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum amount of education needed to enter the field. They take approximately two years to finish and programs are available at a number of Alabama community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative facets of the business needed to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced design training after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialty majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are primarily for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs differ in length but are normally completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be called for before a candidate can sit for the licensing examination.

Topics to Ask Interior Design Schools

Tuscaloosa Alabama interior designer bathroomAfter you have selected the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of assessing your college options. Location will be a critical issue, particularly if the school needs to be within driving distance from your Tuscaloosa AL home. Obviously if you are interested in attending a school online, or are prepared to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will decrease your choices also. But choosing the cheapest college or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you should look at as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a list of questions that you may want to ask the programs you are considering to get those answers in addition to others to help you examine and ultimately choose the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior design school and program that you enroll in has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. 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 undergone a demanding evaluation of their programs and teachers. 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 college and the quality of the training are excellent, it may also help when securing financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Tuscaloosa Alabama employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the Program Prepare you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some 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 some of those States mandating licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required as well. Therefore besides providing an excellent education, the Tuscaloosa AL school you select should also provide the proper instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some help in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are considering if they have a job placement program. If yes, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good indication that the school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design profession and its graduates are in demand. It could also indicate that the school has a large network of Tuscaloosa AL business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Contact the financial assistance offices for the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are evaluating and ask what type of assistance they provide. A number of interior designer programs provide financial assistance to their incoming students. Some colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide support in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited program is important for qualification in most cases. Often a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Tuscaloosa AL colleges you are considering what their average student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your Tuscaloosa home, go to the school and attend 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 approaches are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, verify that the interior designer program you select offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an option also. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Enroll in the Right Interior Designer College near Tuscaloosa Alabama

interior designed kitchen in Tuscaloosa AlabamaChoosing the ideal interior design college is a critical initial step toward launching your career in this artistic and gratifying profession. Finding a school where you will obtain your education and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult task regardless of what major you have selected. As with any endeavor to receive a higher education, there are a number of things to consider before enrolling in a course, program or school. At a minimum, verify that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. However it is still important that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the right final selection. And with quality training and your determination to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Tuscaloosa Alabama.