How to Select the Right Welder Technical School near Athens Alabama
Finding the right welder vocational school near Athens AL is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are a lot of schools to choose from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have fine tuned your alternatives, how do you select the right one? Many prospective students begin by reviewing the schools that are nearest to their homes. When they have identified those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are necessary considerations when reviewing welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before initiating your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's prudent to establish a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Certificate and Degree Training Classes
There are multiple alternatives available to receive training as a welder in a technical or trade school. You can receive a diploma, a certificate or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are available in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced programs than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available combined with an apprenticeship program. Below are short summaries of the most common welding programs offered in the Athens AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are usually offered by trade and technical schools and take about a year to finish. They are more hands-on training in scope, created mainly to develop welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or specialized skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to complete and are most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology provides a more well-rounded education than the diploma or certificate while still providing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
A number of municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so make sure to check for your location of potential employment. As required, the welding school you choose should prep you for any licensing exams that you will need to pass in addition to furnishing the proper training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Choices
There are a number of institutions that offer welder certifications, which evaluate the knowledge and skill level of those applying. A large number of Athens AL employers not only require a certificate or degree from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a highly regarded organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are offered based on the type of work that the welder performs. Some of the things that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specific metal thicknesses
- Work with specific kinds of welds
- Work in compliance with contract specifications
As already stated, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those requiring licensing, many additionally require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and experienced welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and make certain that the welding technical school you select readies you for certification if needed.
What to Ask Welder Tech Programs
When you have chosen the credential you would like to obtain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welding vocational and trade schools in the Athens AL area. That's why it's important to establish in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered two significant ones that many people look at first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that must be considered. After all, the program you decide on is going to provide the instruction that will be the foundation of your new profession as a welder. So following are some additional factors you might need to evaluate before choosing a welder technical school.
Accreditation. It's essential that the welder technical school you decide on is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are 2 standard kinds of accreditation. The school may earn Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a specific program the school has, such as Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school alone. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping ensure that you get a superior education, the accreditation might also assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not offered in Athens AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited as well.
Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. Numerous welding degree or certificate programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship after graduation. Find out if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. These schools must have associations with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can place their students. Older schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can rely upon for placements. These programs can assist students in finding employment and develop relationships within the Athens AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that start an instructional program and finish it. It's important that the welding school you pick has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate could indicate that the students who were in the program were dissatisfied with the training, the teachers, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the quality of training. A high job placement rate will not only verify that the program has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Athens AL employer relationships to help students secure employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.
Modern Equipment and Facilities. Once you have limited your selection of welder programs to two or three options, you should think out visiting the campuses to evaluate their facilities. Verify that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be instructed on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be working with in the field. If you are not sure what to look for, and are currently in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Athens AL welding professional if they can give you some pointers.
School Location. Although we previously briefly discussed the relevance of location, there are a few additional points that we should deal with. You should keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the welding program you choose needs to be within commuting distance of your Athens AL home. If you do choose to attend an out-of-state school, apart from relocation costs there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welding certificate programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school provides a job placement or apprenticeship program, most likely their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school needs to be in an area or state where you ultimately will wish to work.
Smaller Classes. Individualized instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to get lost in larger classes and not get much individualized instruction. Find out what the usual class size is for the welder programs you are considering. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes so that you can see just how much personal attention the students are getting. While there, talk with several of the students and get their feedback. Also, chat with some of the instructors and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they hold.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new trade while still employed at their present job. Check to see that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Athens AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only enroll part-time, verify that the school you choose offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the protocol is to make up classes if you you miss any due to work, illness or family circumstances.
Choose the Best Athens Welding Course for Certification
Picking the best welding training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have discussed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare among the schools you are looking at. It's a must that any welding training program that you are reviewing includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and every student should have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the course of study should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Every training program provides unique possibilities for certification as well. Perhaps the best way to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the students and instructors. Invest some time to attend some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, the end outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Athens AL.