How to Select an Interior Designer School near Athens Alabama
Once you have decided to enroll in an interior design degree program near Athens AL, it’s time to begin the process of selecting a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing commercial or residential spaces, it’s essential that you obtain the right training to put your talents to work. And since a number of states do mandate that interior designers be licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need preparation to pass a licensing examination also. So it’s essential that you perform the appropriate research so that you can assess and compare each school that you are considering before you make your final choice. But just where do you start? Many prospective students will begin their research by looking for interior design programs near their home and then comparing tuition expenses. While location and cost are relevant issues when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation must be considered also. We will cover those topics and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are reviewing 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 choices are offered.
Interior Design vs Interior Decoration
Some people mistake interior decoration for interior design and vice versa. The principal difference between them is the level of training required. Anyone can work as an interior decorator in Athens AL if they possess a general knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior spaces. However, conducting business as an interior designer requires formal training and in a number of states one must have an accredited Associate or Bachelor’s Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are taught to make work or living areas functional as well as attractive. On many occasions they may team up with building engineers and architects. There are two general categories that an interior designer may specialize in:
- Residential Designing. Interior Designers in Athens AL typically work on new construction and existing homes. They can design essentially any room of a house, including bedrooms, closets and basements. Or they can specialize in designing one particular room, for example bathrooms or kitchens.
- Commercial Designing. When working on commercial or public areas, Athens AL designers frequently concentrate primarily on either aesthetic appeal or functionality but pay attention to both. For example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are areas where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may concentrate more on functionality over appearance as the main consideration.
There are several areas of commercial and residential interior design in Athens AL that a designer needs to learn, for example color schemes, lighting, furniture and acoustics. Designers need to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to create their visions. From picking wall paper and carpeting to including Feng shui concepts, interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that help bring about their ultimate designs.
Interior Design Degree Programs
There are 4 degree alternatives offered in interior design to receive the training necessary to launch your new career. Your choice will undoubtedly be driven 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 choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination required in a number of states. More will be discussed on additional accreditation benefits later. Below are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available near Athens AL.
- Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design supply the minimum amount of education needed to enter the field. They take roughly 2 years to complete and programs are offered at many Athens AL area community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally qualify for entry level employment as design assistants.
- Bachelor’s Degree. Bachelor’s degrees are 4 year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They deal with the creative and technical facets of the trade required to become a designer. They are the minimum credential needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
- Master’s Degree. These two year programs supply advanced design training after achieving a Bachelor’s Degree. Master’s Degrees provide options in specialized majors for such things as business offices or residential bathrooms. 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 vary in length but are typically completed in 3 to 5 years.
In order to work as a professional and use 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 take the licensing exam.
Online Interior Designer Colleges
For students who to attend classes in the convenience of their homes, there are accredited online interior design programs. Attending classes online can be a good alternative for those students that are employed or have busy schedules that make attending classes on campus challenging. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For some students online schools may be the only option if no Athens AL area interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be cheaper than for more traditional options. Added costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated also. Just make sure that the program you select is accredited by a respected accrediting organization, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online schools may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. If you have the dedication to acquire your degree without the structure of a physical classroom environment, then an online interior design program may be the ideal alternative for you.
Questions to Ask Interior Design Schools
Now that you have chosen the interior designer degree that you wish to earn, you can start the process of reviewing your Athens AL area school options. Location will be a critical issue, especially if the college needs to be within driving distance from your residence. Of course if you are interested in attending an online school, or are willing to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualifier. The expense for tuition will limit your options as well. But selecting the least expensive school or the one that is nearest to your residence are not the best ways to make your decision. There are other factors that you should consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the program. Below are a few questions that you may want to ask the programs you are considering to obtain those answers in addition to others in order to help you assess and ultimately choose the ideal degree program.
Is the Interior Design School Accredited? It’s imperative to confirm that the interior designer school and program that you enroll in has earned accreditation from 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). Colleges earning accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding evaluation of their programs and instructors. Just make sure 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 establish that the reputation of the college and the quality of the training are excellent, it may also help when requesting financial assistance or a student loan. Often they are not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many Athens AL employers will only employ graduates of accredited programs for entry level jobs.
Does the College Ready you for Licensing? As we previously mentioned, some states do mandate that interior designers become 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 program. And in several of those states calling for licensing, 2 or more years of occupational experience may be required as well. So in addition to furnishing an excellent education, the Athens AL school you enroll in should also provide the suitable education to pass the NCIDQ examination and meet the minimum requirements for licensing for Alabama or the state where you will be employed.
What is the School’s Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and received your interior designer certification, you will no doubt need some assistance in finding your first job. Ask the programs 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 indication that the school and its programs are held in high regard within the interior design trade and its graduates are in demand. It may also signify that the school has a substantial network of Athens AL area business contacts where they can place students to secure internships or employment after they graduate.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Contact the financial aid offices for the colleges you are evaluating and find out what kind of assistance they provide. Many of Athens AL area interior design colleges provide financial assistance to their new students. Certain colleges provide partial scholarships and others provide help in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that enrolling in an accredited school is essential for qualification in most cases. Often a program that has a higher tuition may actually be less expensive than its counterparts because they provide more generous financial assistance.
How Small are the Classrooms? Small classes are more personal and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are large, you may receive minimal individual instruction from the teachers. Find out from the Athens AL colleges you are considering what their average student to teacher ratios are. If practical from your home, visit the college and monitor a couple of classes. While there talk with a few 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? Last, verify that the Athens AL interior designer program you enroll in offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially significant if you will continue working while going to college. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends, make sure that those classes are available. If working full-time means you can only attend part-time, confirm that is an option as well. Finally, check what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, family or illness.
Find the Right Interior Designer Degree Program near Athens AlabamaSelecting the right interior designer college is a crucial first step toward launching your career in this creative and gratifying occupation. Searching for a college where you will obtain your education and cultivate your skills in a specific area of study is a daunting job regardless of what major you have chosen. As with any undertaking to attain a higher education, there are several points to consider before enrolling in a program, course or school. At a minimum, confirm that the design college and program are both accredited and highly respected in the field. However it is still essential that you complete your due diligence analysis. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations presented in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare schools so that you can make the ideal final selection. And with excellent training and your drive to succeed, you can accomplish your goal of becoming an interior designer.
Some Additional Cities of Interest in Alabama