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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Fort Smith AR

How to Pick the Right Interior Designer Program

Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior designer degree program near Fort Smith AR, it's time to start the process of picking a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential interiors, it's essential that you receive the proper training to put your talents to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing examination as well. So it's essential that you perform the appropriate research in order to analyze and compare each program that you are considering prior to making your final selection. But where do you start? A number of potential students will kick off their research by looking for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are key variables when making a decision, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation must be taken into account as well. 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 first, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class alternatives are available.

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Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

interior designed living room in Fort Smith AR

Often people confuse interior design for interior decoration. The main distinction between the two is the level of education required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, working as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in many states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are trained to make living or work areas functional as well as attractive. On many projects they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Fort Smith AR can specialize in:

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

There are numerous areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, for example color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers have to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to including Feng shui concepts, Fort Smith Arkansas interior designers employ a wide range of skills that help bring about their final creations.
 

Interior Designer Degrees

There are 4 degree alternatives available in interior design to get the training required to begin your new profession in Fort Smith AR. Your choice will undoubtedly be motivated by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated 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 brief descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Arkansas trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can typically obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that provide more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the technical and creative components of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a graduating student in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide choices in specialized majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are primarily for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The programs vary in length but are typically completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many 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 take the licensing exam.

What to Ask Interior Designer Colleges

Fort Smith Arkansas interior designer bathroomAfter you have selected the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can start the task of evaluating your school options. Location will be a critical factor, especially if the school must be within commuting distance from your Fort Smith AR residence. Naturally if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will decrease your options as well. But picking the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your house are not the optimal ways to make your selection. There are other variables that you should look at also, such as 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 as well as others to help you assess and subsequently choose the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer Degree Program Accredited? It's essential to make sure that the interior designer college and program that you choose has been accredited by either a regional or national organization. One of the most highly regarded in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding assessment 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 agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are excellent, it may also help when obtaining financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Fort Smith Arkansas employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level positions.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do require that interior designers get 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 some of those States calling for licensing, two or more years of occupational experience may be required also. Therefore in addition to providing an outstanding education, the Fort Smith AR school you enroll in should also provide the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ examination and fulfill the minimum requirements for licensing for Arkansas or the State where you will be employed.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and received your interior designer certification, you will probably need some assistance in finding your first job. Ask the programs that you are reviewing if they have a job placement program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good indication that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design field and its graduates are in demand. It might also indicate that the school has a substantial network of Fort Smith AR business contacts where they can place students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Available? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Fort Smith AR colleges you are reviewing and find out what type of aid they offer. A number of interior designer programs offer financial aid to their new students. Various colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide help in securing grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that choosing an accredited program is essential for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are large, you may receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Fort Smith AR colleges you are looking at what their average student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Fort Smith home, go to the college and sit in on a couple of classes. While there speak with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Finally, confirm that the interior designer school you choose offers classes the fit your hectic schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, make certain that those classes are offered. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an option also. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Enroll in the Right Interior Designer College near Fort Smith Arkansas

interior designed kitchen in Fort Smith ArkansasSelecting the right interior designer college is a crucial first step toward launching your career in this creative and fulfilling occupation. Finding a college where you will receive your education and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a difficult job regardless of what field you have decided on. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are a number of factors to think about before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design college are both accredited and highly respected in the field. But it is still imperative that you perform your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to properly assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the appropriate ultimate selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fort Smith Arkansas.