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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Fort Smith AR

How to Select the Right Interior Design College

Now that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Fort Smith AR, it's time to start the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's essential that you obtain the appropriate training to put your natural abilities to work. And since a number of states do require that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing exam also. So it's vital that you carry out the proper research so that you can assess and compare each school that you are looking at before you make your final decision. But where do you start? A number of potential students will launch their research by searching for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are important variables when making a decision, they should not be the only ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation should be considered as well. We will discuss those issues and other important questions that you must ask 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 training choices are available.

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Interior Design compared to Interior Decoration

interior designed living room in Fort Smith AR

Many people confuse interior decoration for interior design. The principal difference between the two is the level of training required. Any person can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. On the other hand, doing business 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 taught to make living or work areas functional as well as attractive. On various occasions they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are 2 broad areas 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 public or commercial areas, designers often focus primarily on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but take notice of both. For example, business reception areas and meeting rooms are spaces where aesthetics may be stressed over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may focus more on functionality over looks as the main concern.

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

Interior Designer Degree Programs

There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to get the training required to begin your new profession in Fort Smith AR. Your selection will no doubt be influenced by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have to invest in your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in a number of states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are brief explanations 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 roughly two years to complete and programs are offered at numerous Arkansas vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can typically obtain entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical components of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs provide advanced training in design after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialized majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. A number of students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are mainly for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs differ in length but are typically completed in 3 to 5 years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited colleges become licensed. In some instances, 2 or more years of field experience may be needed before an applicant can sit for the licensing exam.

Online Interior Designer Colleges

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 classes. Studying online can be an excellent alternative for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make attending classes on campus problematic. Classes can instead be accessed on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For some students online programs may be the only alternative if no interior design schools are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more traditional options. Added costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be decreased or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the program you select is accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the confines of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the ideal alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Colleges

Once you have decided on the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can start the process of assessing your school options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the school needs to be within driving distance from your Fort Smith AR residence. Of course if you are interested in attending a school online, or are able to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will decrease your choices also. But choosing the most affordable school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the ideal ways to make your decision. There are other issues that you need to consider as well, such as the accreditation and reputation of the school. Below are a few concerns that you may want to ask the programs you are reviewing to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you assess and ultimately pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer Degree Program Accredited? It's important to confirm that the interior design college and program that you select has earned accreditation from either a regional or national agency. One of the most highly regarded in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding evaluation of their instructors 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 verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are outstanding, it might also help when applying for 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 employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.

Does the School Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several States do mandate that interior designers become licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam as well as a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States mandating licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. So besides furnishing an outstanding education, the Fort Smith AR college you choose should also provide the proper training to pass the NCIDQ exam and meet the minimum licensing requirements for Arkansas or the State where you will be working.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and obtained your interior design certification, you will undoubtedly need some support in finding your first position. Ask the programs that you are considering if they have a job placement program. If so, 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 in demand. It may also signify that the college has a sizable network of Fort Smith AR business connections where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Aid Available? Get in touch with the financial aid offices for the Fort Smith AR colleges you are looking at and ask what type of aid they provide. A number of interior designer colleges provide financial aid to their incoming students. Some colleges offer partial scholarships while others provide help in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be emphasized again that enrolling in an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. In some cases a program that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive limited individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Fort Smith AR schools you are considering what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Fort Smith home, go to the school and monitor a few classes. Take the opportunity to speak with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their backgrounds are in interior design.

Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design college you choose provides classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while going to school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, make sure that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an option as well. Finally, check what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Enroll in the Right Interior Design College near Fort Smith Arkansas

interior designed kitchen in Fort Smith ArkansasPicking the right interior design school is a critical first step toward starting your career in this artistic and fulfilling occupation. Locating a college where you will obtain your training and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting job regardless of what field you have selected. As with any endeavor to receive an advanced education, there are several things to consider before selecting a program, course or school. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design college are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. However it is still essential that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the remaining suggestions presented in this article, you will be able to effectively review and compare interior design schools so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fort Smith Arkansas.