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How to Select the Best Welding Trade School near Foley Alabama

Foley Alabama construction welder at work siteEnrolling in the right welder school near Foley AL is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are numerous schools to choose from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have narrowed down your options, how do you pick the best one? Many prospective students start by reviewing the schools that are nearest to their homes. When they have found those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary concerns when examining welder technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's wise to develop a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we delve into our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.

Welding Certificate and Degree Training Courses

Foley Alabama welder working in fabrication shop

There are a number of options available to get training as a welder in a technical or trade school. You can earn a diploma, a certificate or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced programs than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available along with an apprenticeship program. Below are short summaries of the most prevalent welding programs offered in the Foley AL area.

  • Certificate and Diploma Programs are normally offered by technical and trade schools and require about 1 year to finish. They are more hands-on training in scope, designed largely to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for working welders.
  • Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to finish and are usually 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 prepares students to enter the workforce.

Some states and municipalities do have licensing requirements for welders, so be sure to check for your location of future employment. If needed, the welding school you pick should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will have to pass in addition to supplying the proper training to become a professional welder.

Welder Certification Choices

Foley Alabama welder welding metal table

There are a number of organizations that offer welding certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Many Foley AL employers not only demand a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected agency such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are offered based on the type of work that the welder performs. Some of the skills that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to

  • Work in compliance with specific codes
  • Work with specific metal thicknesses
  • Work with specific types of welds
  • Perform according to contract specifications

As earlier stated, some states, cities or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many additionally require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, look into the requirements for your location and verify that the welder tech school you choose prepares you for certification if needed.

Topics to Ask Welder Vocational Schools

Foley Alabama welder welding metal electrical pole

When you have decided on the credential you would like to attain, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you can imagine, there are numerous welding trade and technical schools in the Foley AL area. That's why it's important to decide up front what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered two important ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As mentioned, although they are very important qualifications, they are not the only ones that should be looked at. After all, the school you choose is going to furnish the training that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are more factors you might want to consider before picking a welding vocational school.

Accreditation. It's very important that the welding trade school you pick is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are two basic kinds of accreditation. The school may attain 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 select is accredited, not just the school itself. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping make sure that you receive an excellent education, the accreditation can also help in getting financial aid or student loans, which are often not offered in Foley AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or local governments that require licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.

Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. A large number of welder certificate or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Other schools will assist in placing you in a job or an apprenticeship after graduation. Ask if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools must have associations 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 utilize for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and establish relationships within the Foley AL welding community.

Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that begin an academic program and complete it. It's crucial that the welding school you choose has a higher completion rate. A lower rate might indicate that the students who enrolled in the program were dissatisfied with the training, the instructors, 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 confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Foley AL employer relationships to help students secure apprenticeships or employment after graduation.

Modern Facilities and Equipment. After you have decreased your selection of welder programs to two or three options, you should consider going to the campuses to look over their facilities. Verify that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be trained on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be using on the job. 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. If not, ask a local Foley AL welding professional if they can give you some tips.

School Location. Although we already briefly talked about the significance of location, there are a few additional issues that we need to deal with. You should bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the welding program you pick must be within driving distance of your Foley AL home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, apart from moving costs there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welding degree programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement program, most likely 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 subsequently will wish to work.

Smaller Classes. One-on-one training is important for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to get lost in larger classes and not receive much personalized training. Ask what the usual class size is for the welder programs you are considering. Inquire if you can sit in on a couple of classes so that you can see how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with some of the students and get their opinions. Similarly, talk with a few of the instructors and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.

Flexible Class Scheduling. Many people learn a new profession while still employed at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are looking at are convenient enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Foley AL, make sure that the schools you are assessing offer those alternatives. If you can only enroll part-time, make certain that the school you decide on offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family circumstances.

Find out More About Foley Welder Schools

Find the Right Foley Welding Program for Certification

Picking the best welder school will probably be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have discussed in this article, there are several things that you will need to evaluate and compare among the schools you are reviewing. It's a must that any welder training program that you are reviewing includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student must have their own welding machine to train with. Classroom teaching needs to offer a real-world perspective, and the training program should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Programs vary in length and the type of credential provided, so you will have to determine what length of program and degree or certificate will best satisfy your needs. Every program offers unique options for certification as well. Perhaps the best means to research your short list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the students and faculty. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the school you pick is the best one for you. With the proper training, effort and commitment, the final outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in Foley AL.

 

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