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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Fort Smith AR

How to Enroll in the Right Interior Designer Degree Program

Now that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Fort Smith AR, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's essential that you obtain the right training to put your natural abilities 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 examination as well. So it's very important that you do the appropriate research in order to analyze and compare each program that you are reviewing before you make your ultimate decision. But where do you begin? Many prospective students will start their research by searching for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are key variables when making a decision, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account also. We will address those topics and other crucial questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But before we do, let's talk 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 Fort Smith AR

Often people confuse interior decoration for interior design. The main difference between them is the amount of training required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. 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 educated to make work or living spaces attractive as well as functional. On various projects they may team up with architects and building engineers. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Fort Smith AR may specialize in:

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

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to 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 create their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to integrating Feng shui principles, Fort Smith Arkansas interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that help bring about their final creations.
 

Interior Designer Degree Programs

There are four degree alternatives offered in interior design to acquire the training necessary to begin your new profession in Fort Smith AR. Your decision will undoubtedly be influenced by your career goals as well as the time and money that you have to invest in your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum level of education required to enter the field. They take approximately 2 years to complete and programs are offered at a number of Arkansas trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can typically qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that provide more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs provide advanced design training after achieving a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer alternatives in specialized majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are largely for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are typically completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be called for before an applicant can sit for the licensing exam.

Interior Designer Online Classes

Fort Smith AR student attending interior design school onlineFor individuals who wish to study in the comfort of their Fort Smith AR homes, there are accredited online interior design schools. Attending classes online can be an excellent solution for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For many students online programs may be the only alternative if no interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an added benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated also. Just make certain that the school you select is accredited by a recognized 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 learning. If you have the discipline to acquire your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the perfect option for you.

Subjects to Ask Interior Design Schools

After you have selected the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the process of evaluating your school options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the campus has to be within driving distance from your Fort Smith AR residence. Naturally if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will narrow down your options as well. But selecting the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other issues that you should consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to ask the schools you are reviewing to get those answers in addition to others in order to help you compare and subsequently pick the appropriate degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's imperative to confirm that the interior design college and program that you choose has been accredited by 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). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a demanding evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just confirm 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 establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are excellent, it might also help when securing financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Fort Smith Arkansas employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the Program Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do require that interior designers become 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 program. And in several of those States calling for licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. So in addition to providing an exceptional education, the Fort Smith AR college you choose should also furnish the proper education to pass the NCIDQ exam and comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Arkansas or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and earned your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly want some support in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job assistance program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is a good sign that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design trade and its students are sought after. It could also indicate that the college has a large network of Fort Smith AR business contacts where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Contact the financial assistance offices for the Fort Smith AR schools you are looking at and find out what kind of support they offer. A number of interior designer colleges provide financial assistance to their new students. Various schools offer partial scholarships while others provide assistance in acquiring federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited college is imperative for qualification in most cases. In some cases a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classes? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Fort Smith AR colleges you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Fort Smith home, visit the school and monitor a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to speak with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior designer college you select 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 at night or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, confirm that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, verify that is an alternative as well. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.

Choose the Best Interior Designer College near Fort Smith Arkansas

interior designed kitchen in Fort Smith ArkansasChoosing the right interior design school is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this creative and fulfilling occupation. Finding a school where you will receive your education and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a daunting task no matter what field you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are several things to think about before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the business. But it is still important that you carry out your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can reach your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fort Smith Arkansas.