How to Select the Best Welding Training Classes near Birmingham Alabama
Finding the right welder technical school near Birmingham AL is an essential first step to launching your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to pick from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have fine tuned your options, how do you select the right one? Most prospective students start 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 cheapest one. Yes, location and tuition cost are crucial issues when examining welding vocational schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before initiating your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's sensible to develop a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we delve into our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Certificate and Degree Training
There are several alternatives available to get training as a welder in a technical or trade school. You can receive a a certificate, a diploma or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced courses than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Below are brief summaries of the most common welding programs offered in the Birmingham AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are generally made available by trade and technical schools and take about 1 year to finish. They are more hands-on training in nature, designed primarily to teach welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional 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 certificate or diploma while still providing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
A number of municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, therefore don't forget to find out for your location of potential employment. As required, the welder school you pick should ready 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 Alternatives
There are various institutions that provide welding certifications, which assess 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 school, but also certification from a respected organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are offered dependent on the type of work that the welder does. Some of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with various kinds of welds
- Work based on contract specifications
As earlier stated, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many additionally require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and qualified welder. So just as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and verify that the welder trade school you choose preps you for certification as needed.
Subjects to Ask Welder Technical Schools
After you have chosen the credential you would like to attain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to assess schools. As you probably know, there are many welder trade and technical schools in the Birmingham AL area. That's why it's important to establish in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have previously discussed a couple of significant ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that need to be considered. After all, the school you pick is going to provide the training that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So below are more factors you might want to evaluate before choosing a welder tech school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welder tech school you select is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are 2 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, for example Welding Technology. So verify that the program you select is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping make sure that you obtain an excellent education, the accreditation can also help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not offered in Birmingham AL for schools that are not accredited. Also, for those states or municipalities that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous welding diploma or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will help place you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are considering assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. The schools should have partnerships with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can place their students. More established schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can rely upon for referrals. These programs can assist students in finding employment and establish associations within the Birmingham AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that start an academic program and complete it. It's essential that the welder school you choose has a high completion rate. A low rate may mean that the students who enrolled 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 higher job placement rate will not only verify that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Birmingham AL contacts to help students obtain employment or apprenticeships after graduation.
Modern Equipment and Facilities. Once you have narrowed down your choice of welding programs to 2 or 3 options, you should consider visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be taught on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be using in the field. If you are uncertain what to look for, and are currently 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 a few suggestions.
School Location. Although we previously briefly discussed the significance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we should cover. You should remember that unless you can relocate, the welding program you choose must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly the case for welding degree programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, if the school provides a job placement or apprenticeship program, often their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school should be in a region or state where you ultimately will wish to work.
Smaller Classes. Personalized training is essential for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's easy to get overlooked in bigger classes and not obtain much individualized instruction. Find out what the usual class size is for the welder programs you are looking at. Ask if you can sit in on some classes so that you can see just how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, speak with a few of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they hold.
Convenient Class Schedules. Some people learn a new trade while still working at their current job. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are considering are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Birmingham Welding Course for Certification
Selecting the best welder school will probably be the most important decision you will make to start your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to assess and compare among the programs you are looking at. It's a prerequisite that any welder training program that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be smaller in size and each student must have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the curriculum should be current and conform with industry standards. Programs vary in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and credential will best satisfy your needs. Every training program offers different possibilities for certification as well. Perhaps the best means to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to sit in on some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you select is the best one for you. With the proper training, effort and dedication, the final outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Birmingham AL.