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How to Find the Right Welding Certification Course near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama construction welder at work siteChoosing the ideal welding trade school near Muscle Shoals AL is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are a lot of schools to choose from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have fine tuned your alternatives, how do you pick the right one? Many prospective students begin by reviewing the schools that are nearest to their residences. When they have found those that are within commuting distance, they gravitate toward the least costly one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important concerns when evaluating welder technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors 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 explore our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.

Welder Degree and Certificate Training

Muscle Shoals Alabama welder welding in metal shop

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

  • Diploma and Certificate Programs are generally made available by trade and technical schools and require about a year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, fashioned largely to develop 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 2 years to finish and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers 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 prerequisites for welders, therefore don't forget to check for your location of future employment. If required, the welder school you pick should ready 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 Options

Muscle Shoals Alabama welder welding metal table

There are several institutions that offer welding certifications, which evaluate the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Numerous Muscle Shoals AL employers not only require a certificate or degree from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). Different certifications are offered based upon the type 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 types of welds
  • Work based on contract specifications

As previously stated, some cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, some additionally require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to employers that you are a highly skilled and knowledgeable welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and confirm that the welder technical school you select prepares you for certification as needed.

What to Ask Welding Tech Schools

Muscle Shoals Alabama welder welding electrical pole

Once you have decided on the credential you would like to earn, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous welder trade and vocational schools in the Muscle Shoals AL area. That's why it's important to decide in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already discussed 2 important ones that most people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are very important qualifiers, they are not the only ones that need to be looked at. After all, the program you decide on is going to provide the education that will be the foundation of your new profession as a welder. So below are more factors you might need to evaluate before selecting a welder tech school.

Accreditation. It's very important that the welder tech school you choose is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are 2 basic 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 has, such as Welding Technology. So confirm 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 agency, such as 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 may also help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not offered in Muscle Shoals AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or local governments that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.

Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. A large number of welder diploma or degree programs are provided in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Other schools will assist in placing you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Find out if the schools you are looking at assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. The schools must have relationships 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 placements. These programs can help students find employment and establish associations within the Muscle Shoals AL welding community.

Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that start an academic program and finish it. It's important that the welding school you select has a high completion rate. A lower rate might indicate that the students who were in the program were unhappy with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the quality of training. A high job placement rate will not only verify that the program has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Muscle Shoals AL contacts to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment after graduation.

Modern Equipment and Facilities. After you have narrowed down your choice of welder schools to 2 or 3 options, you should think out visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be instructed on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be working with in the field. If you are not sure 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 Muscle Shoals AL welding contractor if they can give you some pointers.

School Location. Even though we previously briefly discussed the relevance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we need to deal with. You should keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the welder program you choose must be within driving distance of your Muscle Shoals AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welder certificate programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, if the school provides an apprenticeship or job placement program, often their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school should be in a region or state where you subsequently will wish to work.

Smaller Classes. Individualized instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to be lost in bigger classes and not obtain much personalized training. Find out what the average class size is for the welder programs you are looking at. Ask if you can attend some classes so that you can experience just how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, speak with several of the students and get their opinions. Also, speak with a couple of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.

Flexible Class Schedules. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their current job. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are convenient enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, make sure that the schools you are considering offer those alternatives. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any due to work, sickness or family circumstances.

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Choose the Best Muscle Shoals Welding Training for Certification

Choosing the best welder training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have covered in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to examine and compare among the schools you are looking at. It's a prerequisite that any welding training program that you are evaluating includes a lot of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and each student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world context, and the training program should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Programs vary in duration and the kind of credential offered, so you will need to determine what length of program and credential will best serve your needs. Each program provides 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 students and faculty. Take the time to sit in on some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you select is the right one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, the final result will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Muscle Shoals AL.

 

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