How to Find the Right Welder Degree Program near Huntsville Alabama
Locating the right welding school near Huntsville AL is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to pick from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have narrowed down your options, how do you pick the best one? Many people begin by reviewing the schools that are closest to their homes. Once they have found those that are within commuting distance, they gravitate toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and tuition cost are crucial issues when examining welder technical 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 vocational school to become a welder, it's prudent to establish a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we examine our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Degree and Certificate Training Classes
There are multiple options available to get 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 Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced courses than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available combined with an apprenticeship program. Following are short summaries of the most typical welding programs available in the Huntsville AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are normally made available by trade and technical schools and require about a year to finish. They are more hands-on training in nature, created largely to develop welding skills. They can provide 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 diploma or certificate while still providing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Some states and municipalities do have licensing requirements for welders, therefore don't forget to check for your location of potential employment. If needed, the welder school you choose should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will need to pass in addition to providing the suitable training to become a qualified welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are a number of institutions that offer welder certifications, which test the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Numerous Huntsville AL employers not only require a certificate or degree from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a highly regarded agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are offered based on the kind of work that the welder does. Some of the things that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with various types of welds
- Perform in compliance with contract specifications
As earlier mentioned, many states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those requiring licensing, many additionally require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and qualified welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and verify that the welding vocational school you decide on readies you for certification as needed.
Subjects to Ask Welder Vocational Schools
Once you have chosen the credential you want to attain, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can start to assess schools. As you probably know, there are many welder trade and vocational schools in the Huntsville AL area. That's why it's important to determine in advance what qualifications your selected school must have. We have previously discussed a couple of important ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are very important qualifications, they are not the only ones that need to be considered. After all, the school you decide on is going to provide the training that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are more factors you might want to evaluate before selecting a welding trade school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welder vocational school you decide on is accredited by either a regional or a national organization. There are 2 standard types of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a specific program the school has, for instance Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you pick 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). Besides helping make sure that you receive a superior education, the accreditation might also help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available in Huntsville AL for schools that are not accredited. Finally, for those states or local governments that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welder certificate or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will assist in placing you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are considering help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. The schools should have partnerships with local unions and other 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 assist students in finding employment and establish associations within the Huntsville AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that start an academic program and finish it. It's important that the welder program you pick has a high completion rate. A reduced rate might signify that the students who joined the program were unhappy with the instruction, the teachers, 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 affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Huntsville AL contacts to assist students secure employment or apprenticeships after graduation.
Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have decreased your choice of welder programs to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should consider going to the campuses to inspect their facilities. Verify 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 already in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Huntsville AL welding professional if they can give you some tips.
School Location. Even though we previously briefly discussed the relevance of location, there are a couple of additional points that we should address. You should remember that unless you are able to move, the welding school you select needs to be within driving distance of your Huntsville AL home. If you do opt to enroll in an out-of-state school, apart from moving expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding certificate programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement 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 desire to work.
Smaller Classes. Individualized instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to get lost in bigger classes and not get much individualized training. Ask what the typical class size is for the welder schools you are looking at. Inquire if you can attend a couple of classes so that you can see how much personal attention the students are receiving. While there, speak with a few of the students and get their evaluations. Similarly, talk to a few of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Convenient Class Schedules. Some people learn a new trade while still employed at their current job. Check to see that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are convenient enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, make certain that the schools you are reviewing 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 protocol is to make up classes if you you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Find the Best Huntsville Welding Course for Certification
Choosing the right welder school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have covered in this article, there are many factors that you will need to assess and compare among the programs you are reviewing. It's a prerequisite that any welding training program that you are considering includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and every student must have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching needs to offer a real-world context, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best serve your needs. Each training program provides unique possibilities for certification also. Probably the best approach to research your final list of schools is to go to each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Invest some time to attend some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, the end outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in Huntsville AL.