How to Find the Best Welding Training Program near Helena Alabama
Choosing the right welding trade school near Helena AL is an essential 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 significantly, once you have fine tuned your options, how do you pick the best one? A number of prospective students start by reviewing the schools that are nearest to their residences. Once they have located those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary concerns when evaluating welder technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before beginning your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's wise to establish a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we delve into our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Certificate and Degree Training Courses
There are multiple alternatives available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can earn a diploma, a certificate 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 made available combined with an apprenticeship program. Below are brief summaries of the most typical welding programs offered in the Helena AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are usually offered by trade and technical schools and take about a year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, created primarily to teach 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 usually 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.
A number of municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so make sure to find out for your location of future employment. If required, the welding school you pick should prep you for any licensing examinations that you will have to pass in addition to providing the proper training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are various institutions that offer welder certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. A large number of Helena AL employers not only expect a certificate or degree from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a respected agency such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available 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
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specified metal thicknesses
- Work with specific kinds of welds
- Perform in compliance with contract specifications
As already mentioned, various states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those requiring licensing, a number also require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to employers that you are a highly skilled and experienced welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and make sure that the welder trade school you select readies you for certification as needed.
Points to Ask Welding Vocational Schools
Once you have decided on the credential you want to earn, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welding trade and vocational schools in the Helena AL area. That's why it's essential to determine in advance what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have already discussed a couple of important ones that many people look at first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are very important qualifiers, they are not the only ones that must be considered. After all, the school you choose is going to furnish the education that will be the foundation of your new profession as a welder. So below are some additional factors you might need to evaluate before picking a welding tech school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welding tech school you select is accredited by either a national or a regional 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 specific program the school has, such as Welding Technology. So make sure that the program you select is accredited, not just the school alone. 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 ensure that you receive a quality education, the accreditation may also help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable in Helena 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 also.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous welder certificate or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will assist in placing you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are looking at assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. The schools should have associations with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can place their students. More established schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon for placements. These programs can assist students in finding employment and develop relationships within the Helena AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that enroll in an academic program and complete it. It's essential that the welder program you choose has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate could mean that the students who were in the program were dissatisfied with the instruction, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also an indication of the quality of training. A higher job placement rate will not only verify that the program has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Helena AL employer relationships to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment after graduation.
Modern Facilities and Equipment. Once you have narrowed down your choice of welding schools to two or three possibilities, you should think out going to the campuses to inspect their facilities. Make sure that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be instructed on are modern. Specifically, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be working with 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 Helena AL welding professional if they can give you a few suggestions.
School Location. Although we already briefly discussed the importance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we need to deal with. You should bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the welding school you pick needs to be within driving distance of your Helena AL home. If you do opt to attend an out-of-state school, besides moving expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welder diploma programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school offers a job placement or apprenticeship program, often their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school needs to be in a region or state where you subsequently will want to work.
Small Classes. One-on-one instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to be lost in bigger classes and not receive much individualized instruction. Find out what the typical class size is for the welding programs you are reviewing. Ask if you can sit in on some classes so that you can observe how much personal attention the students are receiving. While there, speak with a few of the students and get their feedback. Also, speak with a couple of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.
Convenient Class Scheduling. Lots of folks learn a new profession while still working at their present job. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are looking at are convenient enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Helena AL, make certain that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, verify that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any because of illness, work or family circumstances.
Choose the Best Helena Welding Training for Certification
Picking the right welder school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of things that you will need to assess and compare among the schools you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any welding school that you are reviewing includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes should be smaller in size and each student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction needs to provide a real-world perspective, and the training program should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Training programs differ in length and the kind of credential provided, so you will need to decide what length of program and certificate or degree will best serve your needs. Every program offers unique possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best approach to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Invest some time to monitor some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you pick is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, effort and dedication, the final outcome will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Helena AL.