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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Fort Smith AR

How to Select the Best Interior Design School

Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior design school near Fort Smith AR, it's time to begin the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing commercial or residential spaces, it's essential that you obtain the right training to put your talents to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing examination also. So it's very important that you carry out the appropriate research so that you can analyze and compare each school that you are considering prior to making your ultimate choice. But just where do you start? A number of potential students will kick off their research by searching for interior design colleges near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are important factors when making a determination, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation need to be considered as well. We will cover those issues and other crucial questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are researching later in this article. But before we do, let's talk a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and class choices are available.

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Interior Decoration vs Interior Design

interior designed living room in Fort Smith AR

Some people confuse interior decoration for interior design. The principal difference between them is the amount of training required. Any person can do business as an interior decorator if they possess a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, working as an interior designer necessitates formal training and in numerous states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor's Degree as well as be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make living or work spaces attractive as well as functional. On various occasions they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Fort Smith AR can specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers often work on new construction and existing homes. They can design essentially any room of a house, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When working on public or commercial spaces, designers normally focus primarily on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but take notice of both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for banks and hospitals might concentrate more on functionality over looks as the primary concern.

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

Interior Designer Degree Programs

There are 4 degree alternatives available in interior design to get the training needed to launch your new profession in Fort Smith AR. Your decision will undoubtedly 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 choose to enroll in, make certain to select one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in several states. More will be discussed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum level of training required to enter the profession. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are available at a number of Arkansas trade schools and junior colleges. Graduates can normally qualify for entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are 4 year programs that supply more comprehensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical components of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced design training after attaining the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. Many students enroll to enhance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate programs are primarily for those professionals who desire to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs differ in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

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

Interior Design Online Degree Programs

Fort Smith AR student attending interior design school onlineFor those who wish to study in the convenience of their Fort Smith AR homes, there are accredited online interior design classes. Studying online can be a good alternative for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be accessed on a home computer or laptop when convenient for the student. For some students online schools may be the only option if no interior design programs are within commuting distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated as well. Just make sure that the college you select is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also acquire accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the dedication to earn your degree without the structure of a physical classroom setting, then an online interior design school may be the ideal alternative for you.

Subjects to Ask Interior Design Schools

When you have chosen the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can start the task of assessing your school options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the campus must be within driving distance from your Fort Smith AR home. Naturally if you have decided on attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will narrow down your options also. But picking the cheapest college or the one that is closest to your house are not the ideal ways to make your selection. There are other factors that you need to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the colleges you are reviewing to obtain those answers in addition to others to help you assess and ultimately select the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's important to verify that the interior designer program and college that you choose has earned accreditation from either a regional or national organization. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through an extensive evaluation of their programs and instructors. Just confirm that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the school and the quality of the education are outstanding, it may also help when requesting financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Fort Smith Arkansas employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the Program Prepare you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several States do require that interior designers become licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination as well as a degree from an accredited college. And in several of those States calling for licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required also. Therefore in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Fort Smith AR school you enroll in should also provide the appropriate training to pass the NCIDQ examination 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 probably need some support in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high rate is an excellent sign that the school and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design field and its graduates are in demand. It could also signify that the college has a sizable network of Fort Smith AR business connections where they can place students to secure internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Get in touch with the financial assistance departments for the Fort Smith AR schools you are evaluating and find out what kind of assistance they offer. A number of interior designer colleges offer financial aid to their new students. Some schools offer partial scholarships and others provide support in obtaining grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. In some cases a school that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Large are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Fort Smith AR programs you are considering what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Fort Smith home, visit the school and monitor a few classes. While there talk with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design college you select offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is particularly important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, confirm that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only attend part-time, verify that is an option also. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Choose the Best Interior Designer College near Fort Smith Arkansas

interior designed kitchen in Fort Smith ArkansasSelecting the right interior designer college is a critical first step toward starting your career in this creative and rewarding profession. Searching for a college where you will obtain your training and develop your talents in a particular area of study is a daunting task regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are many factors to consider before choosing a school, program, or course. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly esteemed in the profession. However it is still imperative that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the 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 excellent training and your desire to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Fort Smith Arkansas.