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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 designer school near Berkeley CA, it's time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a talent for designing residential or commercial interiors, it's imperative that you receive the proper training to put your natural abilities to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing exam as well. So it's vital that you do the appropriate research in order to assess and compare each college that you are looking at before you make your ultimate choice. But exactly where do you begin? A number of future students will begin their research by searching for interior design schools near their residence and then comparing tuition costs. While location and cost are key issues when making a determination, they should not be the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation should be considered also. We will cover those topics and other important 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 training alternatives are offered.

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Interior Decoration and Interior Design

interior designed living room in Berkeley CA

Many people mistake interior decoration for interior design. The main difference between them is the level of training required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator if they have a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. However, conducting 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 educated to make work or living areas attractive as well as functional. On various occasions they may work together with architects and building engineers. There are two broad categories that an interior designer in Berkeley CA may specialize in:

  • Residential Design. Interior Designers often 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, for instance kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Commercial Designing. When working on public or commercial areas, designers frequently focus predominantly on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but pay attention to both. For example, business reception areas and meeting rooms 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 several areas of commercial and residential interior design that a designer must learn, such as lighting, color schemes, acoustics and furniture. They need to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From picking carpeting and wall paper to including Feng shui concepts, Berkeley California interior designers employ a wide range of skills that help bring about their ultimate designs.
 

Interior Designer Degree Programs

There are 4 degree options available in interior design to obtain the training necessary to launch your new career in Berkeley CA. Your decision will no doubt be motivated by your career objectives in addition to the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you decide 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 several states. More will be covered on additional benefits of accreditation later. Following are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are offered.

  • Associate Degree. Interior Design Associate Degrees furnish the minimum amount of training required to enter the field. They take about 2 years to complete and programs are available at a number of California community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can usually qualify for entry level positions 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 facets of the trade needed to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a college graduate in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
  • Master's Degree. These two year programs provide advanced training in design after acquiring the Bachelor's Degree. Master's Degrees offer choices in specialty majors for such things as residential bathrooms or business offices. A number of students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in their careers.
  • Doctorate Degree. Doctoral programs are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs differ in length but are generally completed in 3 to 5 years.

To work professionally and adopt the title of "Interior Designer", a number of states require that graduates of accredited degree programs become licensed. In some instances, two or more years of professional experience may be needed before a candidate can take the licensing examination.

Online Interior Designer Degree Programs

Berkeley CA student attending interior design school onlineFor those who wish to attend classes in the convenience of their Berkeley CA homes, there are accredited online interior design classes. Attending classes online can be a great option for those students that are working or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a laptop or a personal computer when practical for the student. For a number of students online colleges may be the sole option if no interior design programs are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more traditional options. Added costs for such things as commuting or study materials may be decreased or eliminated as well. Just be sure that the college you enroll in is accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. If you have the discipline to obtain your degree without the confines of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.

Questions to Ask Interior Design Colleges

Once you have selected the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the task of evaluating your school options. Location will be an important factor, particularly if the school has to be within driving distance from your Berkeley CA home. Of course if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to move to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The cost of tuition will limit your choices also. But selecting the most affordable college or the one that is closest to your residence are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should look at also, including the accreditation and reputation of the program. Following are a few concerns that you may want to ask the colleges you are considering to get those answers as well as others to help you compare and ultimately pick the ideal degree program.

Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It's imperative to make sure that the interior designer 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 receiving accreditation from the NASAD have gone through a rigorous assessment of their instructors and programs. Just make sure 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 confirm that the reputation of the college and the quality of the education are excellent, it may also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not accessible for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of Berkeley California employers will only employ graduates of accredited colleges for entry level jobs.

Does the School Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, a number of States do require that interior designers get licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination in addition to a degree from an accredited school. And in some of those States requiring licensing, 2 or more years of professional experience may be required also. So in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Berkeley CA school you select should also furnish the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ exam and fulfill the minimum licensing requirements for California or the State where you will be employed.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? After you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will undoubtedly need some support in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are reviewing if they have a job assistance program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is an excellent sign that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design field and its students are in demand. It may also signify that the college has a significant network of Berkeley CA business connections where they can refer students to secure internships or employment after graduation.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Get in touch with the financial assistance offices for the Berkeley CA schools you are looking at and find out what type of assistance they provide. Many of interior design schools offer financial assistance to their new students. Various schools offer partial scholarships and others provide assistance in acquiring grants or federal student loans. It must be stressed again that choosing an accredited college is imperative for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may effectively be less expensive than its competitors because they offer more generous financial aid.

How Big are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you probably will receive little 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 convenient from your Berkeley home, visit the campus and attend a few classes. While there speak with some students and find out 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 Fit your Schedule? Last, make sure that the interior designer college you select offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while attending school. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Berkeley CA, make sure that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, check that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, family or illness.

Choose the Right Interior Designer Program near Berkeley California

interior designed kitchen in Berkeley CaliforniaChoosing the ideal interior design program is a critical initial step toward launching your career in this artistic and rewarding occupation. Searching for a school where you will receive your education and cultivate your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting job regardless of what major you have decided on. As with any undertaking to acquire a higher education, there are many points to consider before selecting a program, course or school. At a minimum, check that the program and design school are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. But 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 evaluate and compare interior design colleges so that you can make the right ultimate selection. And with superior training and your desire to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Berkeley California.