How to Select the Best Welder Certification Program near Birmingham Alabama
Selecting the ideal welding vocational school near Birmingham AL is an essential first step to starting your new career as a professional welder. But since there are numerous schools to select from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you select the right one? A number of prospective students start by checking out the schools that are nearest to their homes. Once they have identified those that are within driving distance, they are drawn toward the least costly one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are crucial concerns when examining welding vocational schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before beginning your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's prudent to establish a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are multiple options available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or vocational school. You can obtain a diploma, a certificate or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief summaries of the most typical welding programs offered in the Birmingham AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are generally made available by trade and technical schools and take about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, designed mainly to teach welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or supplemental skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take two years to finish and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers a more well-rounded education than the diploma or certificate while still furnishing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
A number of municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, therefore be sure to find out for your location of potential employment. As needed, the welding school you pick should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will need to pass in addition to furnishing the proper training to become a qualified welder.
Welding Certification Options
There are multiple organizations that offer welding certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. A large number of Birmingham AL employers not only require a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a renowned organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are offered based on the kind of work that the welder performs. Some of the skills that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specific metal thicknesses
- Work with specific types of welds
- Operate according to contract specifications
As already mentioned, many states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, some also require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and make sure that the welding tech school you choose readies you for certification as needed.
Topics to Ask Welding Trade Programs
After you have decided on the credential you would like to earn, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can start to assess schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous welder trade and vocational schools in the Birmingham AL area. That's why it's essential to determine up front what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have previously covered two important ones that many people look at first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that should be considered. After all, the school you select is going to furnish the training that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So following are more factors you may need to evaluate before picking a welding vocational school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welder trade school you decide on is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are 2 basic kinds of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school has, for example Welding Technology. So make sure 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 agency, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping make sure that you get a superior education, the accreditation may also help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available in Birmingham AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.
Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. Numerous welding diploma or degree programs are offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will assist in placing you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Find out if the schools you are considering assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools should have associations with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can refer their students. Older schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon for placements. These programs can assist students in finding employment and establish associations within the Birmingham AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an instructional program and finish it. It's important that the welder program you choose has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate may mean that the students who enrolled in the program were unhappy with the instruction, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also an indication of the caliber of training. A higher job placement rate will not only verify that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Birmingham AL employer relationships to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment after graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. Once you have narrowed down your selection of welding schools to two or three options, you should consider going to the campuses to inspect their facilities. Make sure that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be working with on the job. If you are uncertain what to look for, and are already in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Birmingham AL welding professional if they can give you some suggestions.
School Location. Although we previously briefly covered the significance of location, there are a few additional points that we should address. You should keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the welder program you pick must be within driving distance of your Birmingham AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides relocation expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially true for welder degree programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement program, more than likely their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school needs to be in a region or state where you subsequently will want to work.
Small Classes. One-on-one instruction is important for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's possible to be overlooked in larger classes and not get much personalized instruction. Ask what the average class size is for the welder programs you are reviewing. Inquire if you can sit in on some classes so that you can experience how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, speak with several of the students and get their evaluations. Also, talk with a couple of the trainers and find out what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.
Flexible Class Schedules. Lots of folks learn a new profession while still employed at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are convenient enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham 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, ask what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Birmingham Welding Program for Certification
Picking the right welder training program will probably be the most critical decision you will make to start your new career. As we have discussed in this article, there are several things that you will need to assess and compare between the programs you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any welder training that you are assessing includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes should be small in size and every student should have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world context, and the training program should be current and in-line with industry standards. Programs differ in duration and the kind of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best fulfill your needs. Each program offers different possibilities for certification as well. Probably the best approach to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the school you decide on is the best one for you. With the right training, hard work and commitment, the end result will be a new trade as a professional welder in Birmingham AL.