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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Berkeley CA

How to Select the Best Interior Designer School

Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior designer college near Berkeley CA, it's time to start the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial spaces, it's important that you receive the proper training to put your skills to work. And since some states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing exam also. So it's very important that you carry out the appropriate research in order to analyze and compare each school that you are looking at prior to making your final decision. But exactly where do you start? Many prospective students will kick off their research by looking for interior design colleges near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are key variables when making a decision, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will address those issues and other crucial questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training choices are available.

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Interior Decoration and 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 do business as an interior decorator if they possess a general knowledge of or a skill for decorating interior spaces. However, doing business as an interior designer necessitates 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 living or work areas functional as well as attractive. On some projects they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are 2 general areas that an interior designer in Berkeley CA can specialize in:

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

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, including color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. Designers must be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to create their visions. From selecting carpeting and wall paper to integrating Feng shui principles, Berkeley California interior designers implement a wide variety of skills that help bring about their final creations.
 

Interior Design Degree Options

There are four degree options available in interior design to acquire the training necessary to start your new career in Berkeley CA. Your choice will no doubt be influenced by your career goals in addition to the time and money that you have to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you opt to enroll in, make sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is required in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in some states. More will be addressed on additional accreditation benefits later. Following are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design furnish the minimum amount of training needed to enter the profession. They take approximately two years to complete and programs are available at a number of California vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can commonly obtain entry level positions as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the technical and creative components of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the lowest degree needed by a college graduate in order to secure an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer options in specialty majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to advance their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctorate degrees are mainly for those professionals who wish to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs differ in length but are generally completed in three to five years.

To work as a professional and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of 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 sit for the licensing exam.

Why Study to 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.

What to Ask Interior Designer Schools

After you have chosen the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing your school options. Location will be an important issue, especially if the campus needs to be within commuting distance from your Berkeley CA residence. Obviously if you have decided on attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will decrease your options also. But choosing the least expensive college or the one that is closest to home are not the optimal ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you need to look at as well, including the accreditation and reputation of the school. Following are a list of questions that you may want to ask the programs you are reviewing to obtain those answers in addition to others to help you compare and subsequently choose the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It's essential to confirm that the interior design college and program that you enroll in has been accredited by either a national or regional organization. One of the most respected in the field is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools obtaining accreditation from the NASAD have undergone an extensive evaluation of their programs and teachers. Just verify that both the degree program and the college have been accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Not only will it help establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are outstanding, it might also help when obtaining financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, many Berkeley California employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the Program Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, a number of States do mandate that interior designers become licensed. This would require a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination as well as a degree from an accredited college. And in some of those States mandating licensing, at least 2 years of professional experience may be required as well. Therefore besides providing an exceptional education, the Berkeley CA program you select should also furnish the appropriate education to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum licensing requirements for California or the State where you will be working.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and received your interior designer certification, you will no doubt want some support in finding your first position. Ask the schools 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 highly esteemed within the interior design trade and its students are sought after. It might also indicate that the college has a significant network of Berkeley CA business contacts where they can place students to obtain internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the Berkeley CA schools you are reviewing and ask what type of aid they offer. Many of interior design colleges provide financial assistance to their new students. Some colleges offer partial scholarships and others provide help in acquiring federal student loans or grants. It must be stressed again that selecting an accredited college is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a school that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its competitors because they provide more generous financial assistance.

How Large are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive minimal individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Berkeley CA programs you are looking at what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your Berkeley home, go to the campus and attend a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to talk with a few students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching philosophies are and what their credentials are in interior design.

Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, verify that the interior design school you choose offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly important if you plan to continue working while attending college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Berkeley CA, make sure that those classes are offered. If working full-time means you can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an alternative also. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Enroll in the Right Interior Design Program near Berkeley California

interior designed kitchen in Berkeley CaliforniaChoosing the ideal interior design school is a critical first step toward launching your career in this creative and fulfilling occupation. Searching for a college where you will receive your education and cultivate your talents in a particular area of study is a challenging task regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to receive a higher education, there are many points to think about before enrolling in a course, program or school. At a minimum, verify that the program and design school are both accredited and highly esteemed in the business. However it is still important that you conduct your due diligence research. By doing so and following the balance of the suggestions provided in this article, you will be able to effectively assess and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the right ultimate selection. And with superior training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer in Berkeley California.