How to Pick an Interior Designer Program in Arizona
Once you have made a decision to enroll in an interior design degree program in Arizona, it’s time to begin the process of choosing a school. Even if you have always had a gift for designing residential or commercial interiors, it’s imperative that you obtain the right training to put your talents to work. And since several states do mandate that interior designers become licensed, based upon your state of residence you could need training to pass a licensing examination as well. So it’s vital that you do the appropriate research in order to evaluate and compare each program that you are looking at before you make your ultimate choice. But where do you begin? A number of prospective students will start their research by searching for interior design programs near their home and then comparing tuition costs. While cost and location are important issues when making a determination, they are by no means the sole ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account also. We will address those issues and other important questions that you must ask the interior design schools you are researching 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 offered.
Interior Decoration vs Interior Design
Some people mistake interior design for interior decoration and vice versa. The primary difference between them is the level of education required. Anyone can do business as an interior decorator in Arizona if they possess a basic knowledge of or a talent for decorating interior areas. On the other hand, doing business as an interior designer requires a formal education and in many states one must have an accredited Bachelor’s or Associate Degree and be licensed. Interior designers are educated to make work or residential areas functional as well as attractive. On many occasions they may collaborate with architects and building engineers. There are 2 broad categories that an interior designer can specialize in:
- Residential Design. Interior Designers in Arizona typically work on existing homes as well as new construction. They can design basically any area of a house, including bedrooms, basements and closets. Or they may specialize in designing one particular room, for instance bathrooms or kitchens.
- Commercial Designing. When dealing with commercial or public areas, Arizona designers normally concentrate primarily on either functionality or aesthetic appeal but pay attention to both. As an example, business meeting rooms and reception areas are spaces where aesthetics may be emphasized over function. Designs for hospitals and banks may focus more on functionality over looks as the main consideration.
There are several areas of residential and commercial interior design in Arizona that a designer must learn, such as lighting, color schemes, furniture and acoustics. Designers have to be able to use graphic design and read blue prints in order to produce their visions. From choosing wall paper and carpeting to integrating Feng shui concepts, interior designers utilize a wide range of skills that help bring about their final designs.
Interior Designer Training Programs
There are four degree alternatives available in interior design to acquire the training required to begin your new profession. Your selection will undoubtedly be influenced by your career goals as well as the money and time that you have to devote to your education. But no matter which degree program you choose to enroll in, be sure to pick one that is accredited. Accreditation is mandated in order to qualify for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination mandated in several states. More will be discussed on additional benefits of accreditation later. Below are short descriptions of the interior design degrees that are available in Arizona.
- Associate Degree. Associate degrees in interior design provide the minimum level of training required to enter the field. They take about 2 years to complete and programs are available at many Arizona community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates can normally obtain entry level employment as design assistants.
- Bachelor’s Degree. Bachelor’s degrees are four year programs that deliver more in depth training than the Associate Degree. They cover the creative and technical aspects of the business required to become a designer. They are the minimum degree needed by a graduating student in order to obtain an entry level position as an interior designer.
- Master’s Degree. These two year programs furnish advanced training in design after achieving a Bachelor’s Degree. Master’s Degrees offer alternatives in specialty majors in general areas such as business offices or residential bathrooms. Many students enroll to improve their skills to be more competitive in the job market.
- Doctorate Degree. Doctoral degrees are mainly for those professionals who want to teach interior design at a university or college level. The degree programs vary in length but are normally completed in 3 to 5 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 several instances, 2 or more years of professional experience may be needed before a candidate can take the licensing exam.
Online Interior Design Colleges
For those who wish to study in the convenience of their homes, there are online accredited interior design colleges. Studying online can be a good option for those students that are employed or have hectic schedules that make going to classes on campus difficult. Classes can instead be attended on a home computer or laptop when practical for the student. For many students online schools may be the sole option if no Arizona interior design colleges are within driving distance. And as an additional benefit, the tuition may be lower than for more conventional options. Additional costs for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated also. Just be sure that the program you enroll in is accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (more on accreditation later). Online programs may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. If you have the dedication 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.
What to Ask Interior Design Schools
After you have selected the interior design degree that you wish to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing your Arizona college options. Location will be a critical factor, particularly if the school has to be within driving distance from your home. Naturally if you have decided on attending an online school, or are able to relocate to attend classes, then location may not be a qualification. The fee for tuition will limit your choices also. But picking the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your house are not the best ways to make your selection. There are other issues that you need to consider as well, including the accreditation and reputation of the school. Following are a few questions that you may want to address with the programs you are considering to obtain those answers as well as others to help you examine and subsequently choose the right degree program.
Is the Interior Designer College Accredited? It’s important to confirm that the interior designer college and program that you enroll in has earned accreditation from 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 receiving accreditation from the NASAD have undergone a demanding evaluation of their programs and teachers. Just make sure 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 school and the quality of the education are excellent, it may also help when applying for financial aid or a student loan. Often they are not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, a number of Arizona employers will only hire graduates of accredited colleges for entry level positions.
Does the School Prep you for Licensing? As we mentioned earlier, several states do require that interior designers get licensed. This would necessitate a passing score on the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination as well as a degree from an accredited program. And in some of those states calling for licensing, 2 or more years of work experience may be required as well. So in addition to providing an exceptional education, the school you enroll in should also furnish the proper education to pass the NCIDQ exam and satisfy the minimum requirements for licensing for Arizona or the state where you will be employed.
What is the Program’s Job Placement Rate? Once you have graduated and obtained your interior designer certification, you will probably want some help in finding your first position. Ask the colleges that you are looking at if they have a job placement program. If so, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher rate is a good sign that the college and its programs are highly regarded within the interior design field and its graduates are sought after. It could also indicate that the school has a large network of Arizona business relationships where they can refer students to obtain internships or employment after graduation.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Get in touch with the financial aid departments for the colleges you are evaluating and ask what kind of assistance they provide. A number of Arizona interior design schools offer financial assistance to their incoming students. Certain colleges offer partial scholarships while others provide help in securing federal student loans or grants. Again it must be stressed that selecting an accredited school is important for qualification in most cases. Often a college that has a higher tuition may ultimately be cheaper than its competitors because they provide more generous financial aid.
How Big are the Classes? Smaller classes are more intimate and conducive to personalized instruction. If classes are larger, you may receive limited individual instruction from the teachers. Ask the Arizona schools you are considering what their average teacher to student ratios are. If practical from your home, go to the school and sit in on a couple of classes. While there speak with some students and ask what their experiences have been. Ask the instructors what their teaching styles are and what their experiences have been in interior design.
Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Last, confirm that the Arizona interior designer program you enroll in offers classes the fit your active schedule. This is especially important if you will continue working while attending college. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends, verify that those classes are available. If you have a full-time job and can only enroll part-time, confirm that is an alternative also. Finally, check what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, sickness or family obligations.
Select the Right Interior Design College in Arizona
Picking the right interior designer school is a crucial initial step toward launching your career in this creative and fulfilling occupation. Locating a school where you will receive your training and develop your skills in a particular area of study is a daunting job no matter what field you have selected. As with any undertaking to acquire an advanced education, there are many factors to consider before selecting a course, program or school. At a minimum, make sure that the program and design college are both accredited and highly regarded in the profession. But it is still imperative that you perform your due diligence research. By doing so and following the rest of the recommendations provided in this article, you will be able to properly evaluate and compare schools so that you can make the appropriate final selection. And with superior training and your drive to succeed, you can achieve your goal of becoming an interior designer in Arizona.