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How to Choose the Best Welder Degree Program near Hoover Alabama

Hoover Alabama construction welder on the jobChoosing the right welding trade school near Hoover AL is an essential first step to starting your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to select from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have narrowed down your options, how do you pick the best one? A number of prospective students begin by reviewing the schools that are closest to their homes. Once they have located those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the least costly one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary concerns when examining welding trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before initiating your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's wise to develop a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we examine our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.

Welding Certificate and Degree Programs

Hoover Alabama welder welding in metal shop

There are a number of options to obtain training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can receive a diploma, a certificate or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced courses than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief summaries of the most common welding programs available in the Hoover AL area.

  • Certificate and Diploma Programs are generally made available by technical and trade schools and require about a year to finish. They are more hands-on training in scope, designed largely to develop welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or specialized skills for working welders.
  • Associate Degree Programs will take 2 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 providing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.

A number of states and municipalities do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so don't forget to check for your location of future employment. As needed, the welder school you select should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will have to take in addition to supplying the suitable training to become a qualified welder.

Welding Certification Options

Hoover Alabama welder welding metal frame

There are a number of institutions that offer welding certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Many Hoover AL employers not only require a certificate or degree from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a highly regarded agency such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are offered based upon the kind of work that the welder does. Just some of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to

  • Operate in compliance with specific codes
  • Work with certain metal thicknesses
  • Work with specific kinds of welds
  • Work according to contract specifications

As formerly mentioned, some states, cities or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, some also require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are an extremely skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and verify that the welder trade school you decide on readies you for certification if needed.

Questions to Ask Welding Vocational Programs

Hoover Alabama welder welding electrical pole

When you have chosen the credential you would like to attain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to compare schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous welding vocational and trade schools in the Hoover AL area. That's why it's essential to decide in advance what qualifications your selected school must have. We have previously covered 2 important ones that most people look at 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 considered. After all, the program you select is going to furnish the training that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are some additional factors you might need to evaluate before selecting a welding vocational school.

Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welding trade school you pick is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are two standard types 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, for instance Welding Technology. So confirm that the program you select is accredited, not just the school alone. Also, 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). In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, the accreditation might also help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable in Hoover 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 Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welding diploma or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will assist in placing you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Find out if the schools you are considering help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. These schools must have relationships 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 rely upon for placements. These programs can assist students in finding employment and develop relationships within the Hoover AL welding community.

Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that start an academic program and complete it. It's important that the welder program you pick has a higher completion rate. A low rate might mean that the students who were in the program were unhappy with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the quality of training. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the program has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Hoover AL employer relationships to assist students secure employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.

Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have limited your selection of welder schools to two or three options, you should consider visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Make sure that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are modern. Specifically, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be using in the field. If you are uncertain what to look for, and are currently in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Hoover AL welding contractor if they can give you some suggestions.

School Location. Even though we already briefly talked about the significance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we need to cover. You should bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the welding program you select needs to be within driving distance of your Hoover AL home. If you do choose to attend an out-of-state school, besides relocation expenses there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding diploma programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, if the school provides 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 subsequently will wish to work.

Small Classes. Personalized instruction is important for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to be lost in larger classes and not obtain much personalized training. Ask what the average class size is for the welder schools you are considering. Ask if you can sit in on some classes so that you can experience just how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, speak with some of the students and get their opinions. Also, speak with a few of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.

Convenient Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their current job. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are looking at are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Hoover AL, make certain that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any due to illness, work or family circumstances.

Find out More About Hoover Welding Courses

Find the Right Hoover Welding Course for Certification

Picking the right welding school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to start your new profession. As we have covered in this article, there are several factors that you will need to examine and compare between the programs you are reviewing. It's a must that any welder school that you are examining includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student should have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction needs to offer a real-world frame of reference, and the course of study should be current and in-line with industry standards. Training programs vary in length and the kind of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best serve your needs. Each training program provides different possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best means to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and speak with the students and instructors. Invest some time to attend some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you decide on is the best one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, the final outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in Hoover AL.

 

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