How to Choose the Best Welder Training Classes near Huntsville Alabama
Choosing the right welding technical school near Huntsville AL is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to pick from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you select the best one? Many prospective students begin by reviewing the schools that are nearest to their homes. When they have located those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary concerns when evaluating welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations 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 sensible 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 Classes
There are several options available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a a certificate, a diploma or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are available in Welding Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced programs than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief explanations of the most prevalent 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, designed largely to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or supplemental skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take two years to complete and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers a more extensive education than the certificate or diploma while still supplying the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Many municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so make sure to find out for your location of future employment. As needed, the welder school you pick should prep you for any licensing exams that you will have to pass in addition to furnishing the proper training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are a number of organizations that provide welder certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Many Huntsville AL employers not only expect a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a highly regarded agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are available 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 specific metal thicknesses
- Work with certain types of welds
- Perform based on contract specifications
As previously stated, many cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, some additionally require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are a highly skilled and knowledgeable welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and make sure that the welding trade school you decide on prepares you for certification as needed.
Topics to Ask Welding Tech Programs
After you have decided on the credential you want to obtain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you can imagine, there are a large number of welding trade and technical schools in the Huntsville AL area. That's why it's essential to decide in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already discussed 2 important ones that many people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As stated, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that need to be considered. After all, the program you decide on is going to provide the instruction that will be the foundation of your new profession as a welder. So following are more factors you may need to consider before choosing a welder vocational school.
Accreditation. It's essential that the welder vocational 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 has, for example Welding Technology. So verify that the program you pick is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping ensure that you get a superior education, the accreditation may also help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not offered in Huntsville AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited as well.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welding diploma or degree programs are provided combined with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship after graduation. Find out if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These 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 more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and establish relationships within the Huntsville AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that start an instructional program and complete it. It's important that the welder program you select has a higher completion rate. A lower rate might signify that the students who were in the program were unhappy with the instruction, the instructors, 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 confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Huntsville AL employer relationships to help students secure apprenticeships or employment after graduation.
Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have limited your choice of welding schools to 2 or 3 options, you should consider going to the campuses to look over their facilities. Make sure that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are modern. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be working with in the field. If you are unsure what to look for, and are currently in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Huntsville AL welding professional if they can give you some pointers.
School Location. Even though we already briefly covered the significance of location, there are a few additional issues that we should cover. You should remember that unless you are able to relocate, the welder program you pick needs to be within driving distance of your Huntsville AL home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, apart from moving costs there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welder certificate programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, 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 an area or state where you subsequently will wish to work.
Smaller Classes. One-on-one instruction is essential for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's easy to get lost in bigger classes and not obtain much individualized instruction. Ask what the typical class size is for the welder schools you are considering. Ask if you can attend a few classes so that you can see how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, speak with a few of the students and get their evaluations. Also, chat with a few of the trainers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their current job. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, make sure that the schools you are assessing provide 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 work, sickness or family circumstances.
Choose the Best Huntsville Welding School for Certification
Selecting the ideal welding school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have discussed in this article, there are a number of things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are considering. It's a necessity that any welding school that you are reviewing includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and every student should have their personal welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world perspective, and the curriculum should be current and conform with industry standards. Programs differ in length and the type of credential provided, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Every program provides different options for certification also. Perhaps the best way to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Take the time to attend a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the school you choose is the best one for you. With the proper training, effort and dedication, the final outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Huntsville AL.