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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Vestavia Hills AL

How to Select the Right Interior Design Degree Program

Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Vestavia Hills AL, it's time to begin the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's important that you obtain the proper training to put your skills to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's crucial that you do the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each college that you are considering before you make your ultimate selection. But where do you start? Many prospective students will begin their research by searching for interior design courses near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are important factors when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation 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 looking at 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 offered.

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Interior Decoration and Interior Design

interior designed living room in Vestavia Hills AL

Some people mistake interior design for interior decoration. The main difference between them is the level of training required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. However, working as an interior designer requires a formal education and in numerous 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 spaces functional as well as attractive. On various projects they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Vestavia Hills AL can specialize in:

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

There are numerous areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, for example color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. Designers 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 including Feng shui principles, Vestavia Hills Alabama interior designers employ a wide variety of skills that help bring about their ultimate creations.
 

Interior Design Degree Programs

There are four degree options available in interior design to get the training necessary to start your new career in Vestavia Hills AL. Your selection will undoubtedly be influenced by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in several states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum amount of education required to enter the profession. They take about two years to finish and programs are available at many Alabama vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative facets of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced design training after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer alternatives in specialty majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are primarily for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

To work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required before a candidate can sit for the licensing exam.

Why Do You Want to Be an Interior Designer?

Vestavia Hills 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 Programs

Once you have decided on the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of evaluating your college options. Location will be a critical factor, especially if the college has to be within commuting distance from your Vestavia Hills AL residence. Obviously if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will limit your choices as well. But selecting the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to home are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other things that you need to look at as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the programs you are considering to get those answers in addition to others in order to help you assess and ultimately pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's necessary to verify that the interior designer program and college that you select has earned accreditation from either a regional or national agency. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive assessment of their programs and teachers. Just make sure that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are excellent, it may also help when obtaining financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, many Vestavia Hills Alabama employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the Program Prep you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in addition to a degree from an accredited program. And in several of those States calling for licensing, a minimum of 2 years of professional experience may be required as well. Therefore besides providing an excellent education, the Vestavia Hills AL school you choose should also provide the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the State where you will be employed.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and attained your interior design certification, you will no doubt need some support 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 higher rate is a good sign that the college and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design field and its students are sought after. It may also indicate that the college has a substantial network of Vestavia Hills AL business contacts where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Vestavia Hills AL colleges you are looking at and find out what kind of support they provide. Many of interior designer programs offer financial assistance to their incoming students. Some schools provide partial scholarships while others provide assistance in acquiring grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may ultimately be less expensive than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are considering what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Vestavia Hills 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 experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Last, verify that the interior designer program you choose provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly significant if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, verify that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, check that is an alternative as well. Finally, check what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Choose the Best Interior Design School near Vestavia Hills Alabama

interior designed kitchen in Vestavia Hills AlabamaChoosing the right interior design program is a crucial first step toward launching your career in this creative and gratifying occupation. Finding a school where you will obtain your training and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a daunting job regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are several things to consider before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. But it is still imperative that you carry out your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to effectively review and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with excellent training and your determination to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Vestavia Hills Alabama.