How to Choose the Right Welding Vocational School near Fairfield Alabama
Locating the ideal welding technical school near Fairfield AL is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to select from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you pick the best one? Many people start by looking at the schools that are nearest to their homes. Once they have located those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are crucial issues when evaluating welder vocational schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before initiating your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's sensible 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 Programs
There are a number of options available to get 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 offered in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available along with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief explanations of the most typical welding programs available in the Fairfield AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are usually offered by trade and technical schools and require about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, designed mainly to develop welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or specialized skills for experienced welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to complete and are most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers a more well-rounded 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 make sure to find out for your location of future employment. As required, the welder school you choose should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will have to pass in addition to supplying the suitable training to become a professional welder.
Welding Certification Choices
There are a number of organizations that provide welder certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Many Fairfield AL employers not only demand a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a renowned organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are available based on the kind of work that the welder does. A few of the things that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specified metal thicknesses
- Work with certain kinds of welds
- Perform based on contract specifications
As formerly stated, some states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those calling for licensing, many additionally require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are a highly skilled and experienced welder. So just as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and verify that the welding tech school you choose preps you for certification if needed.
Questions to Ask Welder Trade Schools
As soon as you have chosen the credential you would like to earn, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to compare schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welder trade and technical schools in the Fairfield AL area. That's why it's necessary to determine up front what qualifications your selected school must have. We have already discussed two significant ones that most people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that should be looked at. After all, the program you pick is going to provide the education that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are some additional factors you may want to evaluate before selecting a welding technical school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welder technical school you choose is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. 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 offers, such as Welding Technology. So verify that the program you pick is accredited, not just the school itself. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, the accreditation may also assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available in Fairfield AL for schools that are not accredited. Also, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.
Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. Numerous welding certificate or degree programs are provided in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Find out if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. The schools should have relationships 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 utilize for placements. These programs can help students find employment and develop relationships within the Fairfield AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that enroll in an educational program and finish it. It's essential that the welding program you pick has a high completion rate. A low rate could mean that the students who were in the program were unhappy with the training, the teachers, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also an indication of the quality of training. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Fairfield AL contacts to help students obtain employment or apprenticeships after graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. After you have decreased your choice of welder schools to two or three options, you should consider going to the campuses to inspect their facilities. Confirm that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be working with in the field. If you are not sure 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 Fairfield AL welding contractor if they can give you a few pointers.
School Location. Although we already briefly discussed the importance of location, there are a couple of additional points that we should address. You should remember that unless you are able to relocate, the welder program you choose needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairfield AL home. If you do opt to attend an out-of-state school, besides moving costs there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welding certificate programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement program, more than likely their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school needs to be in an area or state where you ultimately will wish to work.
Smaller Classes. Individualized training is important for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to get overlooked in bigger classes and not get much individualized training. Ask what the usual class size is for the welding programs you are considering. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes so that you can see just how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, talk with a few of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, talk to some of the instructors and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their present job. Check to see that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are convenient enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Fairfield AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend 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 due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Right Fairfield Welding School for Certification
Selecting the best welding training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to start your new profession. As we have addressed in this article, there are many things that you will need to examine and compare between the programs you are considering. It's a prerequisite that any welding training that you are evaluating includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes need to be smaller in size and every student should have their personal welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching needs to offer a real-world context, and the training program should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Training programs vary in length and the type of credential offered, so you will need to decide what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Every program provides unique options for certification also. Perhaps the best means to research your final list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Take the time to attend some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the school you decide on is the best one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, the end outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in Fairfield AL.