How to Enroll In the Right Welding Trade School near Birmingham Alabama
Enrolling in the ideal welder technical school near Birmingham AL is an important first step to starting your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to choose from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you select the best one? Most people begin by checking out the schools that are nearest to their homes. When they have identified those that are within commuting distance, they gravitate toward the least costly one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are crucial issues when examining welder technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before beginning your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's wise to establish a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Certificate and Degree Programs
There are multiple options to obtain training as a welder in a trade or vocational school. You can receive a diploma, a certificate or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available 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 normally made available by trade and technical schools and take about one year to finish. They are more hands-on training in nature, created largely 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 most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology furnishes a more extensive education than the diploma or certificate while still supplying the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
Some municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so be sure to find out for your location of future employment. If needed, the welding school you choose should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will have to take in addition to furnishing the suitable training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Options
There are a number of institutions that offer welder certifications, which evaluate the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Numerous Birmingham AL employers not only require a certificate or degree from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a renowned organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are offered dependent on the type of work that the welder performs. A few of the things that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with certain kinds of welds
- Perform in compliance with contract specifications
As formerly mentioned, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many also require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are an extremely skilled and experienced welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and verify that the welding tech school you select readies you for certification as needed.
Subjects to Ask Welder Vocational Programs
Once you have chosen the credential you would like to obtain, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welder vocational and trade schools in the Birmingham AL area. That's why it's important to establish in advance what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have already covered two significant ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are very important qualifiers, they are not the only ones that need to be looked at. After all, the program you decide on is going to provide the education that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So below are more factors you may want to consider before choosing a welder tech school.
Accreditation. It's essential that the welder vocational school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are two standard types 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, 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 might also assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available in Birmingham AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or local governments that require licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welding degree or diploma 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 must have partnerships with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can place their students. More established schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can utilize for referrals. These programs can assist students in finding employment and develop relationships within the Birmingham AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that enroll in an educational program and complete it. It's important that the welder school you pick has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate might indicate that the students who were in the program were dissatisfied with the instruction, the teachers, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the caliber of training. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the program has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Birmingham AL contacts to help students obtain employment or apprenticeships after graduation.
Modern Equipment and Facilities. After you have narrowed down your choice of welder programs to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should consider going to the campuses to evaluate their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be trained on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be using on the job. If you are not sure what to look for, and are already in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL welding contractor if they can give you some tips.
School Location. Although we already briefly covered the significance of location, there are a couple of additional points that we need to cover. You should bear in mind that unless you have the ability to relocate, the welding school you choose must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. If you do opt to enroll in an out-of-state school, apart from relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding diploma programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, if the school provides an apprenticeship or job placement program, more than likely their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school should be in a region or state where you subsequently will want to work.
Small Classes. Personalized training is essential for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's possible to be overlooked in bigger classes and not get much one-on-one instruction. Ask what the usual class size is for the welder schools you are looking at. Inquire if you can attend some classes so that you can see how much personal attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with several of the students and get their evaluations. Similarly, chat with a couple of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Convenient Class Schedules. Many people learn a new trade while still employed at their current job. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are considering are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only enroll part-time, verify that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make up classes if you you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Birmingham Welding School for Certification
Picking the ideal welder training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have discussed in this article, there are several things that you will need to evaluate and compare among the schools you are looking at. It's a necessity that any welding training program that you are reviewing includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes should be small in size and each student must have their personal welding machine to train on. Classroom education needs to provide a real-world frame of reference, and the curriculum should be current and in-line with industry standards. Courses differ in length and the kind of credential offered, so you will have to determine what length of program and certificate or degree will best serve your needs. Every training program provides unique possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best way to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you pick is the right one for you. With the proper training, effort and commitment, the final outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Birmingham AL.