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How to Choose the Best Welder Technical School near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama construction welder at work siteLocating the right welding technical school near Muscle Shoals AL is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to select from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have narrowed down your alternatives, how do you pick the right one? A number of people start by looking at the schools that are closest to their residences. When they have identified those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important considerations when examining welder technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's prudent to create 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.

Welder Degree and Certificate Programs

Muscle Shoals Alabama welder working in metal shop

There are multiple alternatives 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 Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available combined with an apprenticeship program. Following are short explanations of the most prevalent welding programs available in the Muscle Shoals AL area.

  • Certificate and Diploma Programs are normally offered by technical and trade schools and take about 1 year to finish. They are more hands-on training in scope, fashioned mainly to develop welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for working welders.
  • Associate Degree Programs will take two years to finish and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology provides a more extensive education than the certificate or diploma while still furnishing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.

A number of municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, so be sure to find out for your location of potential employment. As needed, the welder school you choose should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will need to take in addition to furnishing the suitable training to become a qualified welder.

Welder Certification Options

Muscle Shoals Alabama welder welding metal frame

There are a number of institutions that provide welding certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Numerous Muscle Shoals AL employers not only demand a certificate or degree from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are available dependent on the type of work that the welder does. Some of the skills that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to

  • Work in compliance with specific codes
  • Work with specified metal thicknesses
  • Work with certain kinds of welds
  • Work in compliance with contract specifications

As formerly mentioned, some cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those requiring licensing, some also require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and knowledgeable welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and make certain that the welder technical school you decide on preps you for certification if needed.

Points to Ask Welding Vocational Programs

Muscle Shoals Alabama electrician welding electrical beam

As soon as you have decided on the credential you want to obtain, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to compare schools. As you probably know, there are numerous welder trade and vocational schools in the Muscle Shoals AL area. That's why it's important to establish in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have previously discussed a couple of important ones that most 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 should be considered. 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 want to evaluate before selecting a welder technical school.

Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welding tech school you choose is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are two basic types of accreditation. The school may earn Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a specific program the school offers, for example Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you select is accredited, not just the school alone. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping make sure that you obtain an excellent education, the accreditation might also assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable in Muscle Shoals AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.

Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous welder diploma or degree programs are offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. 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. These schools must have associations with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can place their students. Older 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 Muscle Shoals AL welding community.

Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an instructional program and finish it. It's essential that the welding program you choose has a higher completion rate. A low rate may indicate that the students who joined the program were unhappy with the instruction, the teachers, 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 a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Muscle Shoals AL employer relationships to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.

Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have decreased your choice of welding programs to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should consider visiting the campuses to inspect their facilities. Make sure that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be working with in the field. If you are unsure what to look for, and are already in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Muscle Shoals AL welding professional if they can give you some suggestions.

School Location. Even though we already briefly covered the relevance of location, there are a couple of additional points that we need to cover. You should bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the welder program you choose must be within commuting distance of your Muscle Shoals AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding certificate programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement program, more than likely their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school should be in a region or state where you subsequently will wish to work.

Smaller Classes. One-on-one instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to be lost in bigger classes and not receive much personalized instruction. Ask what the usual class size is for the welding schools you are looking at. Ask if you can attend a few classes so that you can observe how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, speak with some of the students and get their evaluations. Also, speak with some of the trainers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.

Flexible Class Scheduling. Many people learn a new trade while still working at their current job. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are looking at are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those alternatives. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find out More About Muscle Shoals Welder Training

Find the Right Muscle Shoals Welding Program for Certification

Picking the right welder training program will probably be the most important decision you will make to launch your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to examine and compare among the programs you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any welder training that you are considering includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes should be small in size and each student must have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching should provide a real-world perspective, 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 need to ascertain what length of program and credential will best serve your needs. Every training program provides unique options for certification also. Perhaps the best approach to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the students and instructors. Take the time to attend some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you select is the right one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the end outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Muscle Shoals AL.

 

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