How to Pick the Right Welder Degree Program near Northport Alabama
Enrolling in the right welding school near Northport AL is an important first step to beginning 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 importantly, once you have fine tuned your alternatives, how do you select the best one? A number of people begin by checking out the schools that are nearest to their residences. When they have found those that are within driving distance, they are drawn toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and tuition cost are crucial issues when reviewing 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 vocational school to become a welder, it's sensible to create a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Degree and Certificate Programs
There are several alternatives available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can receive a a certificate, a diploma or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced programs than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered along with an apprenticeship program. Following are short descriptions of the most prevalent welding programs available in the Northport AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are generally offered by technical and trade schools and require about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, fashioned mainly to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or supplemental skills for experienced welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take two years to complete and are most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology furnishes a more extensive education than the certificate or diploma while still providing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
Many municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, so be sure to check for your location of future employment. If required, the welder school you pick should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will have to pass in addition to supplying the proper training to become a qualified welder.
Welder Certification Choices
There are multiple institutions that provide welder certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. A large number of Northport AL employers not only require a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a renowned organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available 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
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specified metal thicknesses
- Work with various types of welds
- Perform according to contract specifications
As previously mentioned, many cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, a number additionally require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a means to demonstrate to employers that you are a highly skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and verify that the welder trade school you select readies you for certification if needed.
Topics to Ask Welding Technical Schools
Once you have chosen the credential you want to earn, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to assess schools. As you probably know, there are numerous welding vocational and trade schools in the Northport AL area. That's why it's necessary to establish in advance what qualifications your selected school must have. We have previously discussed a couple of important ones that many people look at first, which are location and tuition cost. As stated, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that should be considered. After all, the program you choose is going to provide the instruction that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So below are some additional factors you might need to evaluate before selecting a welder vocational school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welding vocational school you select is accredited by either a regional or a national organization. There are 2 basic kinds of accreditation. The school may earn 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 select is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping ensure that you get a superior education, the accreditation may also help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable in Northport 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 as well.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welding 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 after graduation. Find out if the schools you are considering help 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 rely upon for referrals. These programs can assist students in finding employment and develop associations within the Northport AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that enroll in an academic program and finish it. It's important that the welding program you pick has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate may indicate that the students who enrolled in the program were dissatisfied 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 higher job placement rate will not only verify that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Northport AL contacts to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. Once you have narrowed down your selection of welder schools to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should think out visiting the campuses to inspect their facilities. Verify that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be taught on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be similar 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. Otherwise, ask a local Northport AL welding contractor if they can give you some suggestions.
School Location. Even though we already briefly covered the importance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we should cover. You should bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the welder program you pick must be within driving distance of your Northport AL home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, apart from relocation expenses there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welder certificate programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, 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 desire to work.
Small Classes. Personalized training is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to get overlooked in larger classes and not receive much personalized instruction. Find out what the average class size is for the welding schools you are looking at. Ask if you can attend some classes so that you can experience just how much personal attention the students are getting. While there, speak with some of the students and get their opinions. Similarly, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Convenient Class Scheduling. Many people learn a new trade while still working at their current job. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Northport AL, make sure that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, verify that the school you choose offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Northport Welding School for Certification
Picking the right welding school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have covered in this article, there are many things that you will need to examine and compare between the programs you are considering. It's a necessity that any welding training program that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be small in size and every student should have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world context, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Training programs vary in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will have to determine what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Every training program offers different possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best way to research your short list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the final result will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Northport AL.