How to Choose the Best Welder Vocational School near Birmingham Alabama
Selecting the ideal welder vocational school near Birmingham AL is an essential first step to starting your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to pick from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you pick the right one? A number of prospective students begin by looking at the schools that are closest to their homes. Once they have located those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the least costly one. Yes, location and tuition cost are crucial issues when examining welding 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 chosen school must have. But before we examine our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Degree and Certificate Programs
There are several alternatives available 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 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 short descriptions of the most common welding programs available in the Birmingham AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are usually offered by trade and technical schools and require about a year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, fashioned largely to develop welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or supplemental skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take two years to complete and are most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology provides a more extensive education than the diploma or certificate while still furnishing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Some states and municipalities do have licensing prerequisites for welders, therefore don't forget to check for your location of potential employment. If required, the welding school you choose should prep you for any licensing exams that you will have to pass in addition to furnishing the suitable training to become a professional welder.
Welding Certification Choices
There are several institutions that provide welding certifications, which test the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Numerous Birmingham AL employers not only expect a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a renowned organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available based upon the type of work that the welder does. Some of the skills 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
- Operate based on contract specifications
As earlier stated, some states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those calling for licensing, some additionally require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are a highly skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and make certain that the welder tech school you decide on prepares you for certification as needed.
Questions to Ask Welding Trade Schools
After you have decided on the credential you want to earn, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to assess schools. As you can imagine, there are a large number of welder trade and vocational schools in the Birmingham AL area. That's why it's necessary to determine in advance what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have previously covered a couple of important ones that most people look at first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are very important qualifications, they are not the only ones that should be considered. After all, the school you choose is going to provide the training that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So below are more factors you might want to evaluate before choosing a welding tech school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welding tech school you select is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are two basic kinds of accreditation. The school may earn Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school has, such as Welding Technology. So verify that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school alone. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping ensure that you get an excellent education, the accreditation can also assist in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable in Birmingham AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welding certificate or degree programs are provided combined with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship after graduation. Find out if the schools you are considering help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. The schools must have partnerships with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can place their students. Older schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon 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 portion or percentage of students that enroll in an educational program and complete it. It's crucial that the welding program you pick has a high completion rate. A lower rate could signify that the students who were in the program were dissatisfied with the training, the teachers, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the caliber of training. A higher job placement rate will not only verify that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Birmingham AL contacts to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Modern Equipment and Facilities. After you have limited your selection of welding schools to two or three possibilities, you should think out visiting the campuses to inspect their facilities. Make sure that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be trained on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be using in the field. 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. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL welding contractor if they can give you a few tips.
School Location. Even though we previously briefly talked about the relevance of location, there are a couple of additional points that we should address. You should keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the welder program you select needs to be within driving distance of your Birmingham AL home. If you do opt to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving expenses there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welder degree programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement program, often their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school needs to be in a region or state where you ultimately will wish to work.
Smaller Classes. One-on-one instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to be overlooked in larger classes and not receive much individualized instruction. Ask what the average class size is for the welder programs you are looking at. Inquire if you can sit in on a few classes so that you can witness how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, speak with some of the students and get their feedback. Also, chat with a couple of the teachers and find out what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.
Convenient Class Scheduling. Lots of folks learn a new profession while still employed at their current job. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are looking at are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that the schools you are assessing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, confirm that the school you choose offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Birmingham Welding School for Certification
Choosing the ideal welder school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new trade. As we have addressed in this article, there are several factors that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are looking at. It's a necessity that any welding training that you are assessing includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes should be small in size and each student should have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom instruction needs to provide a real-world perspective, and the training program should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Courses vary in length and the kind of credential provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Each program provides unique options for certification also. Probably the best way to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the faculty and students. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you pick is the best one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the end result will be a new trade as a professional welder in Birmingham AL.