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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Fort Smith AR

How to Select the Best Interior Design Degree Program

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 talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's essential that you receive the right training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do require that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing examination also. So it's crucial that you carry out the proper research in order to analyze and compare each program that you are looking at before you make your ultimate choice. But where do you begin? A number of potential students will launch their research by searching for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are key issues when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be considered as well. We will cover those issues and other important 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 choices are offered.

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Interior Design and Interior Decoration

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 have a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer requires formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Bachelor's or Associate Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or living spaces attractive as well as functional. On some projects they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are two broad areas that an interior designer in Fort Smith AR can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design essentially any room 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 public or commercial spaces, designers normally concentrate predominantly on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. For 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 primary concern.

There are numerous areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer needs to learn, for example color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. They need to be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui concepts, Fort Smith Arkansas interior designers implement a wide variety of skills that help bring about their final designs.
 

Interior Designer Training Programs

There are 4 degree alternatives offered in interior design to receive the training needed to launch your new profession in Fort Smith AR. Your selection will undoubtedly be motivated by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have to commit to your education. But regardless of which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam mandated in some states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are brief explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum amount of education required to enter the field. They take approximately two years to finish and programs are available at numerous Arkansas community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can commonly qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four 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 lowest degree needed by a graduating student in order to obtain 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 choices in specialized majors in general areas such as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are primarily for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs differ in length but are generally completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required before a candidate can sit for the licensing examination.

Topics to Ask Interior Designer Programs

Fort Smith Arkansas interior designer bathroomWhen you have selected the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the process of analyzing your college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the campus has to be within driving distance from your Fort Smith AR residence. Obviously if you have decided on attending a school online, or are prepared to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will narrow down your choices as well. But picking the most affordable college or the one that is nearest to your house are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should look at also, such as the accreditation and reputation of the program. Below are a few questions that you may want to ask the colleges you are reviewing to get those answers as well as others in order to help you compare and subsequently pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer School Accredited? It's important to confirm that the interior design college and program that you choose has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most highly regarded in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a rigorous assessment of their instructors and programs. Just make sure that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the school and the quality of the training are outstanding, it may also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Fort Smith Arkansas employers will only hire graduates of accredited schools for entry level jobs.

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) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited program. And in several of those States calling for licensing, at least 2 years of work experience may be required also. Therefore besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Fort Smith AR program you enroll in should also provide the appropriate instruction to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum licensing requirements 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 help in finding your first job. Ask the colleges that you are considering 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 in demand. It could also indicate that the school has a significant network of Fort Smith AR business relationships where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the Fort Smith AR colleges you are reviewing and find out what kind of aid they offer. Many of interior designer schools offer financial assistance to their new students. Certain colleges provide partial scholarships while others provide assistance in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that choosing an accredited college is important for qualification in most cases. Sometimes a program that has a higher tuition may actually be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Small are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you probably will receive little individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Fort Smith AR schools you are considering what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your Fort Smith home, visit the campus and sit in on a few classes. While there talk 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 Offered that Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior designer college you enroll in provides classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an option also. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Enroll in the Right Interior Designer School near Fort Smith Arkansas

interior designed kitchen in Fort Smith ArkansasChoosing the right interior design college is an important first step toward launching your career in this creative and gratifying profession. Searching for a school where you will receive your training and cultivate your talents in a specific area of study is a daunting task regardless of what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are a number of points to think about before enrolling in a school, program, or course. At a minimum, verify that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the profession. However it is still essential 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 assess and compare interior design schools so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with quality training and your desire to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fort Smith Arkansas.