How to Pick the Right Welding Trade School near Center Point Alabama
Choosing the ideal welding trade school near Center Point AL is an important first step to starting 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 importantly, once you have fine tuned your alternatives, how do you select the best one? Most prospective students begin by looking at the schools that are closest to their homes. When they have found those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the least costly one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important considerations when evaluating welder vocational schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's sensible to establish a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Degree and Certificate Programs
There are multiple options available to obtain training as a welder in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a a certificate, a diploma or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are available in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are short summaries of the most common welding programs available in the Center Point AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are generally offered by technical and trade schools and require about 1 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 supplemental 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 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 states and municipalities do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so don't forget to find out for your location of future employment. If required, the welding school you choose should ready you for any licensing examinations that you will have to take in addition to furnishing the proper training to become a qualified welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are multiple organizations that provide welder certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Many Center Point AL employers not only demand a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). Different certifications are offered based on the kind of work that the welder performs. A few 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 types of welds
- Work in compliance with contract specifications
As already mentioned, many cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, some also require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a means to demonstrate to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable welder. So just as with licensing, look into the requirements for your location and make sure that the welding vocational school you select readies you for certification if needed.
What to Ask Welding Technical Programs
After you have decided on the credential you want to obtain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to assess schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welder trade and technical schools in the Center Point AL area. That's why it's necessary to decide in advance what qualifications your selected school must have. We have already discussed two important 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 looked at. After all, the program you decide on is going to furnish the instruction that will be the foundation of your new profession as a welder. So below are some additional factors you may want to evaluate before picking a welder trade school.
Accreditation. It's essential that the welder vocational school you decide on is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are two basic kinds of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on an individual program the school offers, such as Welding Technology. So confirm 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). Besides helping ensure that you get a quality education, the accreditation might also assist in getting financial aid or student loans, which are often not offered in Center Point AL for schools that are not accredited. Finally, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welder degree or diploma programs are provided in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will help place you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are looking at assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. The schools should have associations with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can refer their students. More established schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can utilize for placements. These programs can help students find employment and establish associations within the Center Point AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an educational program and complete it. It's important that the welding program you pick has a high completion rate. A reduced rate could indicate that the students who were in the program were unhappy with the instruction, the instructors, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also an indication of the caliber of training. A higher job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Center Point AL employer relationships to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. Once you have decreased your selection of welder programs to 2 or 3 options, you should think out visiting the campuses to evaluate their facilities. Verify that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are modern. 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 already in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Center Point AL welding contractor if they can give you a few tips.
School Location. Even though we already briefly talked about the relevance of location, there are a few additional issues that we should address. You should remember that unless you have the ability to move, the welding school you pick needs to be within driving distance of your Center Point AL home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, apart from moving costs there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly the case for welder certificate programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, 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 should be in a region or state where you ultimately will want to work.
Small Classes. Individualized instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to be overlooked in larger classes and not get much personalized training. Find out what the average class size is for the welding programs you are looking at. Inquire if you can attend some classes so that you can observe just how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with several of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, talk with a couple of the trainers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new trade while still working at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are convenient enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Center Point AL, make certain that the schools you are assessing provide those choices. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you decide on offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Find the Right Center Point Welding Training for Certification
Selecting the ideal welding training program will probably be the most critical decision you will make to launch your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are many things that you will need to evaluate and compare among the schools you are looking at. It's a necessity that any welding school that you are reviewing includes a lot of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and every student should have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom education should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be current and in-line with industry standards. Training programs vary in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best serve your needs. Each program provides different options for certification as well. Probably the best approach to research your final list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the faculty and students. Take the time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you pick is the right one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, the final outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Center Point AL.