How to Pick the Right Welder Degree Program near Birmingham Alabama
Selecting the ideal welding technical school near Birmingham AL is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to select from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you select the right one? Most prospective students start by reviewing the schools that are closest to their residences. When they have identified those that are within driving distance, they are drawn toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and tuition cost are crucial concerns when reviewing welding technical 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 trade school to become a welder, it's wise to create 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 Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several options to obtain training as a welder in a technical or trade school. You can earn a a certificate, a diploma or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are available in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced courses than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are short descriptions of the most common welding programs offered in the Birmingham AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are normally offered by technical and trade schools and take about a year to finish. They are more hands-on training in scope, designed mainly to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or specialized skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to finish and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers a more well-rounded education than the certificate or diploma while still furnishing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
Many states and municipalities do have licensing requirements for welders, therefore be sure to find out for your location of future employment. As required, the welder school you select should ready you for any licensing examinations that you will have to take in addition to furnishing the appropriate training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are several organizations that offer welding certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. A large number of Birmingham AL employers not only require a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a renowned organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available dependent on the kind 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 certain metal thicknesses
- Work with specific kinds of welds
- Work based on contract specifications
As earlier mentioned, some cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those requiring licensing, some also require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and make sure that the welder vocational school you choose preps you for certification as needed.
What to Ask Welding Tech Schools
As soon as you have chosen the credential you would like to earn, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to compare schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous welding trade and vocational schools in the Birmingham AL area. That's why it's essential to determine up front what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered two important ones that most people look at first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifiers, they are not the only ones that should be looked at. After all, the program you select is going to provide the education that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So following are some additional factors you may want to evaluate before picking a welding vocational school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welding vocational school you pick is accredited by either a regional or a national organization. There are 2 standard types of accreditation. The school may attain Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a specific program the school has, for example Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you select is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, 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). Besides helping ensure that you receive a superior education, the accreditation might also help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable in Birmingham AL for schools that are not accredited. Finally, for those states or municipalities that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited as well.
Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. A large number of welder degree or diploma programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship after graduation. Ask if the schools you are reviewing help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools should have partnerships with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can refer 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 associations within the Birmingham AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that enroll in an academic program and complete it. It's crucial that the welding school you choose has a higher completion rate. A low rate could indicate that the students who joined the program were unhappy with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the quality of training. A higher job placement rate will not only affirm that the program has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Birmingham AL contacts to assist students secure employment or apprenticeships after graduation.
Modern Facilities and Equipment. After you have narrowed down your selection of welding programs to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should consider visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Make sure that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be taught on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be working with on the job. If you are not sure what to look for, and are currently in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Birmingham AL welding professional if they can give you some tips.
School Location. Although we already briefly covered the relevance of location, there are a few additional issues that we should address. You should remember that unless you are able to relocate, the welding school you select needs to be within driving distance of your Birmingham AL home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding diploma programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school offers a job placement or apprenticeship program, most likely their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school needs to be in an area or state where you subsequently will desire to work.
Smaller Classes. Individualized training is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to be lost in bigger classes and not obtain much personalized training. Ask what the typical class size is for the welder schools you are reviewing. Ask if you can attend a couple of classes so that you can experience just how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, talk with several of the students and get their feedback. Also, talk with some of the instructors and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they hold.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Many people learn a new profession while still working at their current job. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you pick 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 responsibilities.
Choose the Best Birmingham Welding Training for Certification
Choosing the ideal welder training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to start your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are several factors that you will need to examine and compare among the programs you are reviewing. It's a prerequisite that any welder school that you are examining includes a lot of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and every student should have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Training programs vary in length and the type of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best serve your needs. Each training program provides different possibilities for certification as well. Probably the best approach to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Invest some time to attend a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the school you pick is the ideal one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the end result will be a new career as a professional welder in Birmingham AL.