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How to Select the Best Welding Degree Program near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama construction welder at work siteEnrolling in the right welding trade school near Decatur AL is an important first step to starting your new career as a professional welder. But since there are numerous schools to select from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you select the right one? Most prospective students start by checking out the schools that are closest to their homes. When they have identified those that are within commuting distance, they gravitate toward the least costly one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary issues when evaluating welder technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's prudent to create a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.

Welder Degree and Certificate Training Courses

Decatur Alabama welder welding in metal shop

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 combined with an apprenticeship program. Following are short descriptions of the most typical welding programs offered in the Decatur AL area.

  • Diploma and Certificate Programs are normally offered by technical and trade schools and require about 1 year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, created largely to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for experienced welders.
  • Associate Degree Programs will take two years to complete and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology furnishes a more well-rounded 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 requirements for welders, therefore be sure to check for your location of future employment. As required, the welding school you select should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will have to take in addition to providing the proper training to become a professional welder.

Welding Certification Choices

Decatur Alabama welder welding metal frame

There are various organizations that offer welding certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Many Decatur AL employers not only expect 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 available dependent on the type of work that the welder does. A few of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to

  • Work in compliance with specific codes
  • Work with specific metal thicknesses
  • Work with certain types of welds
  • Work based on contract specifications

As already mentioned, many states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those calling for licensing, some also require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and verify that the welder tech school you decide on prepares you for certification as needed.

Topics to Ask Welding Vocational Schools

Decatur Alabama welder welding electrical pole

When you have chosen the credential you want to attain, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can start to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many welder vocational and trade schools in the Decatur AL area. That's why it's important to decide up front what qualifications your selected school must have. We have already discussed a couple of important ones that most people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifiers, they are not the only ones that need to be looked at. After all, the school you select is going to furnish the education that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are some additional factors you might need to consider before selecting a welding tech school.

Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welder technical school you choose is accredited by either a regional or a national organization. There are two basic types of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school offers, for example Welding Technology. So make sure that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school alone. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a superior education, the accreditation may also help in getting financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable in Decatur AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or municipalities that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.

Apprenticeship and Job Assistance Programs. Many welder certificate or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will assist in placing you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Find out if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. These schools must have partnerships with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can refer their students. Older schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can utilize for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and develop associations within the Decatur AL welding community.

Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that start an instructional program and finish it. It's important that the welding school you select has a high completion rate. A low rate might signify that the students who joined the program were dissatisfied with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also an indication of the caliber of training. A high job placement rate will not only verify that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Decatur AL contacts to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.

Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. Once you have limited your selection of welder programs to two or three options, you should consider going to the campuses to look over their facilities. Make sure that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be taught on are modern. Specifically, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be working with on the job. If you are unsure what to look for, and are currently in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Decatur AL welding professional if they can give you some suggestions.

School Location. Even though we previously briefly talked about the importance of location, there are a few additional points that we need to cover. You should keep in mind that unless you can move, the welder program you pick needs to be within commuting distance of your Decatur AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, apart from relocation expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding degree programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school provides a job placement or apprenticeship program, more than likely their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school should be in an area or state where you ultimately will wish to work.

Smaller Classes. One-on-one training is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to be lost in larger classes and not obtain much individualized instruction. Find out what the average class size is for the welder programs you are reviewing. Ask if you can sit in on a few classes so that you can observe just how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, speak with several of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, talk to some of the instructors and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.

Convenient Class Scheduling. Many people learn a new profession while still working at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are looking at are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Decatur AL, confirm that the schools you are assessing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you decide on offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

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Choose the Best Decatur Welding Program for Certification

Choosing the right welder school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to launch your new trade. As we have addressed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare among the programs you are looking at. It's a necessity that any welding training program that you are evaluating includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes should be smaller in size and each student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world context, and the course of study should be current and conform with industry standards. Programs vary in length and the type of credential provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and credential will best serve your needs. Each training program provides unique possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best way to research your final list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the students and instructors. Invest some time to monitor some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you decide on is the right one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, the end outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in Decatur AL.

 

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