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Schools Offering Interior Design Programs near Berkeley CA

How to Choose the Best Interior Design Program

Now that you have decided to enroll in an interior design school near Berkeley CA, 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 proper training to put your natural abilities to work. And since some states do require that interior designers become licensed, depending on your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's very important that you perform the proper research in order to evaluate and compare each school that you are reviewing prior to making your final decision. But just where do you begin? Some potential students will kick off their research by looking for interior design courses near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are key variables when making a decision, they are by no means the only ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will cover those issues and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are interested in later in this article. But before we do, let's cover a little bit more about what interior design is and what degree and training alternatives are available.

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Interior Design compared to Interior Decoration

interior designed living room in Berkeley CA

Some people confuse interior decoration for interior design. The key distinction 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 talent for decorating interior areas. However, doing business as an interior designer requires a formal education 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 residential areas functional as well as attractive. On various occasions they may work together with building engineers and architects. There are 2 general categories that an interior designer in Berkeley CA can specialize in:

  • Residential Designing. Interior Designers often work on new construction and existing homes. They can design basically any area of the home, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they may specialize in designing one specific room, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Commercial Design. When working on public or commercial areas, designers normally concentrate primarily 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 banks and hospitals may concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.

There are many areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer needs to learn, for example color schemes, lighting, acoustics and furniture. They must be able to read blue prints and use graphic design in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to incorporating Feng shui concepts, Berkeley California interior designers utilize a wide variety of skills that contribute to their ultimate creations.
 

Interior Design Training Programs

There are 4 degree options offered in interior design to acquire the training needed to begin your new profession in Berkeley CA. Your selection will undoubtedly be driven by your career objectives as well as the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But regardless of which degree program you opt to enroll in, be sure to choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is needed in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam required in several states. More will be covered on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are short explanations of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum level of training required to enter the field. They take approximately 2 years to finish and programs are available at many California vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level jobs as design assistants.
  • Bachelor's Degree. Bachelor's degrees are four year programs that supply more extensive training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical aspects of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the lowest credential needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level job as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These 2 year programs supply advanced training in design after achieving a Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees provide options in specialized majors for such things 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 desire to teach interior design at a college or university level. The degree programs vary in length but are typically completed in three to five years.

In order to work professionally and use the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states mandate that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In several instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be needed before an applicant can sit for the licensing examination.

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.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Schools

When you have chosen the interior designer degree that you want to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing your college options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the campus must be within commuting distance from your Berkeley CA home. Obviously if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to move to attend classes, then location might not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will narrow down your choices also. But selecting the most affordable college or the one that is nearest to home are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other issues that you should consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the school. Following are a list of questions that you may want to ask the programs you are looking at to get those answers as well as others to help you assess and ultimately pick the right degree program.

Is the Interior Design College Accredited? It's important to verify that the interior design school and program that you choose has earned accreditation from either a national or regional agency. One of the most respected in the industry is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous assessment of their programs and instructors. 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 confirm 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 accessible for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Berkeley California employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the College Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in addition to a degree from an accredited college. And in some of those States mandating licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. So besides providing an outstanding education, the Berkeley CA program you enroll in should also provide the suitable instruction to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum requirements for licensing for California or the State where you will be working.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and attained your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly want some support in finding your first position. Ask the schools that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If yes, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good indication that the school and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design trade and its graduates are in demand. It might also indicate that the school has a large network of Berkeley CA business relationships where they can refer students to secure internships or jobs after they graduate.

Is Financial Aid Available? Contact the financial assistance departments for the Berkeley CA schools you are looking at and ask what type of aid they provide. Many of interior designer colleges provide financial aid to their incoming students. Various schools provide partial scholarships while others provide assistance in securing federal student loans or grants. It must be stressed again that enrolling in an accredited school is imperative for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be cheaper than its counterparts because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classrooms? Smaller classes are more personal and conducive to one on one instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive little individual attention from the teachers. Find out from the Berkeley CA programs you are considering what their average student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your Berkeley home, go to the campus and attend a couple of classes. Take the opportunity to speak with some students and find out what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their experiences have been in interior design.

Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Finally, make sure that the interior design school you enroll in offers classes the fit your busy schedule. This is particularly significant if you plan to continue working while going to 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, confirm that is an alternative as well. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Choose the Right Interior Design College near Berkeley California

interior designed kitchen in Berkeley CaliforniaPicking the ideal interior design program is a crucial first step toward launching your career in this artistic and fulfilling occupation. Finding a school where you will obtain your training and develop your skills in a specific area of study is a daunting job regardless of what major you have selected. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are a number of points to think about before choosing a course, program or school. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design school are both accredited and highly respected in the business. However it is still imperative that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the suggestions provided 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 Berkeley California.