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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Fort Smith AR

How to Pick the Best Interior Designer College

Once you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program near Fort Smith AR, 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 important that you obtain the appropriate training to put your talents to work. And since several states do require that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's crucial that you carry out the proper research in order to analyze and compare each college that you are reviewing before you make your final decision. But exactly where do you begin? A number of prospective students will kick off their research by searching for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are key issues when making a determination, they should not be the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation should be considered as well. We will address those issues 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 cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class alternatives are offered.

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Interior Decoration compared to Interior Design

interior designed living room in Fort Smith AR

Often people confuse interior decoration for interior design. The primary distinction between them is the amount of education required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, conducting business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or residential spaces attractive as well as functional. On many occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Fort Smith AR can specialize in:

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

There are many areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, including color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. They must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to create their visions. From choosing carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui principles, Fort Smith Arkansas interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that contribute to their ultimate designs.
 

Interior Designer Degree Programs

There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to obtain the training needed to launch your new career in Fort Smith AR. Your decision will no doubt be motivated by your career goals in addition to the money and time that you have budgeted to commit to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in some states. More will be covered on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum level of education needed to enter the profession. They take approximately two years to finish and programs are available at many Arkansas community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally obtain 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 deal with the technical and creative aspects of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced training in design after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices 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. Doctorate degrees are primarily for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are typically 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 degree programs become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be called for before an applicant can take the licensing exam.

What to Ask Interior Design Schools

Fort Smith Arkansas interior designer bathroomWhen you have chosen the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the process of assessing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the school has to be within driving distance from your Fort Smith AR home. Obviously if you are interested in attending a school online, or are able to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your choices as well. But choosing the most affordable college or the one that is closest to your house are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other factors that you need to look at as well, such as the accreditation and reputation 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 ultimately choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's essential to make sure that the interior design school and program that you choose has been accredited by either a national or regional organization. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous evaluation of their programs and teachers. Just confirm that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are excellent, it may also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Fort Smith Arkansas employers will only employ graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

Does the College Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several 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 some of those States mandating licensing, at least 2 years of work experience may be required also. So in addition to furnishing an outstanding education, the Fort Smith AR college you enroll in should also provide the proper instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and meet the minimum requirements for licensing 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 assistance in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent indication that the school and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design field and its graduates are sought after. It may also indicate that the college has a significant network of Fort Smith AR business contacts where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Fort Smith AR colleges you are evaluating and ask what type of assistance they provide. A number of interior designer programs provide financial aid to their new students. Certain schools offer partial scholarships and others provide support in securing federal student loans or grants. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive 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 larger, you may receive limited individual attention from the teachers. Ask the Fort Smith AR programs you are considering what their typical teacher to student ratios are. If convenient from your Fort Smith home, go to the school and monitor a couple of classes. While there speak 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 Accessible 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 plan to continue working while attending school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, make certain that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Enroll in the Best Interior Designer School near Fort Smith Arkansas

interior designed kitchen in Fort Smith ArkansasChoosing the ideal interior design college is a crucial initial step toward starting your career in this creative and rewarding profession. Locating a college where you will obtain your education and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a difficult job regardless of what field you have chosen. As with any undertaking to acquire a higher education, there are a number of things to think about before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design college are both accredited and highly regarded in the business. However it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence research. By doing so and following the remaining recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with superior training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fort Smith Arkansas.