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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Berkeley CA

How to Choose the Right Interior Design Degree Program

Now that you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design college near Berkeley CA, 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 imperative that you obtain the right training to put your talents to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you may need preparation to pass a licensing examination also. So it's vital that you carry out the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each college that you are looking at prior to making your ultimate choice. But just where do you start? Many future students will begin their research by searching for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition expenses. While cost and location are important variables when making a determination, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as reputation and accreditation must be taken into account also. We will cover those issues and other vital questions that you should be asking the interior design schools you are looking at 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 Berkeley CA

Often people mistake interior decoration for interior design. The key difference between them is the amount of education required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, working as an interior designer requires 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 work or living areas functional as well as attractive. On many occasions they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer in Berkeley CA may specialize in:

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

There are many areas of residential and commercial interior design that a designer must learn, including 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 incorporating Feng shui concepts, Berkeley California interior designers implement a wide variety of skills that help bring about their ultimate designs.
 

Interior Designer Degrees

There are 4 degree options available in interior design to receive the training necessary to launch your new career in Berkeley CA. Your choice will undoubtedly be influenced by your career objectives as well as the time and money that you have to invest in your education. But no matter which degree program you decide to enroll in, make certain to pick 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 addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are available.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees provide the minimum amount of training needed to enter the field. They take about two years to finish and programs are available at a number of California community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can commonly obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that furnish more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical components of the trade required to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced design training after attaining a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide alternatives in specialized majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are largely for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs differ in length but are normally completed in three to five years.

In order to work as a professional and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", many states require that graduates of accredited schools become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of field experience may be required before a candidate can sit for the licensing exam.

Why Become an Interior Designer?

Berkeley CA student attending interior design school onlineThere are many options available to you once you graduate and enter the field of interior design.  If you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit you may become self-employed and open your own interior design shop. You might also work for a small or larger design firm. Designers have careers creating interiors for businesses, hospitals, government buildings, as well as private residences. Rarely is a design career a 9 to 5 job. You’ll need to be flexible, patient, and persistent to get your career off the ground. But you will have the opportunity to earn an attractive income as well as the personal satisfaction of creating beautiful living and working spaces.

Subjects to Ask Interior Designer Programs

Once you have decided on the interior design degree that you want to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing your school options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the school must be within driving distance from your Berkeley CA home. Naturally if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will decrease your options as well. But selecting the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your residence are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other variables that you need to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the college. Following are a list of concerns that you may want to address with the colleges you are looking at to get those answers in addition to others to help you compare and ultimately select the right degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's necessary to verify that the interior design college and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a national or regional 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 gone through an extensive evaluation of their teachers and programs. Just verify that both the college and the degree program have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Not only will it help verify that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are outstanding, it may also help when applying for financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited colleges. Also, many Berkeley California employers will only hire graduates of accredited schools for entry level positions.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, several States do mandate that interior designers get licensed. This would require 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 mandating licensing, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required as well. So in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Berkeley CA college you choose should also furnish the suitable training to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for California or the State where you will be employed.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and earned your interior design certification, you will probably want some help in finding your first job. Ask the schools 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 a good sign that the school and its programs are held in high esteem within the interior design field and its students are in demand. It might also indicate that the school has a large network of Berkeley CA business connections where they can refer students to obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Contact the financial aid offices for the Berkeley CA colleges you are reviewing and ask what type of support they provide. Many of interior designer schools provide financial aid to their new students. Certain schools provide partial scholarships while others provide support in acquiring grants or federal student loans. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. In some cases a program that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its competitors because they offer more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Berkeley CA colleges you are looking at what their typical student to teacher ratios are. If convenient from your Berkeley home, go to the college and attend a couple of classes. While there talk with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching approaches are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Last, confirm that the interior designer program you choose offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Berkeley CA, make sure that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, check that is an option as well. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Enroll in the Best Interior Design College near Berkeley California

interior designed kitchen in Berkeley CaliforniaChoosing the ideal interior design school is an important first step toward starting your career in this artistic and fulfilling profession. Locating a school where you will obtain your education and develop your talents in a specific area of study is a challenging task regardless of what major you have selected. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are many points to think about before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, confirm that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the field. But it is still important that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to effectively evaluate and compare interior design programs so that you can make the ideal ultimate selection. And with quality training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Berkeley California.