How to Select the Right Welding Certification Program near Northport Alabama
Enrolling in the right welder technical school near Northport AL is an important first step to starting your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to select from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you select the best one? Many people begin by checking out the schools that are nearest to their homes. When they have found those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important concerns when reviewing welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors 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 establish a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we examine our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Certificate and Degree Training Courses
There are several alternatives available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or vocational school. You can earn a diploma, a certificate 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 offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Below are short descriptions of the most typical welding programs offered in the Northport AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are generally made available by trade and technical schools and require about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, fashioned mainly to teach welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or supplemental 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 furnishes a more extensive education than the diploma or certificate while still providing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
Some municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, therefore don't forget to check for your location of potential employment. As required, the welder school you choose should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will need to pass in addition to furnishing the appropriate training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are multiple institutions that offer welding certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Many Northport AL employers not only demand a certificate or degree from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a highly regarded agency such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are offered based upon the kind of work that the welder does. A few of the things that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specified metal thicknesses
- Work with certain types of welds
- Work based on contract specifications
As already mentioned, many cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those requiring licensing, some additionally require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are an extremely skilled and experienced welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and make certain that the welding vocational school you decide on readies you for certification as needed.
Points to Ask Welder Vocational Programs
After you have chosen the credential you want to earn, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can start to compare schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many welding vocational and trade schools in the Northport AL area. That's why it's necessary to establish up front what qualifications your selected school must have. We have previously covered a couple of significant ones that most people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As stated, although they are very important qualifications, they are not the only ones that must be considered. After all, the school you select is going to provide the training that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So following are more factors you may need to consider before picking a welder tech school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welding tech school you decide on is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are 2 basic kinds of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school has, for instance Welding Technology. So confirm that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, 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). In addition to helping make sure that you get a superior education, the accreditation may also help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are often 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 welding training program be accredited also.
Job Placement 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 after graduation. Ask if the schools you are reviewing help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools should have relationships with local unions and various 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 help students find employment and establish associations within the Northport AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an academic program and complete it. It's crucial that the welding school you pick has a high completion rate. A reduced rate might indicate that the students who were in the program were unhappy with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also an indication of the quality of training. A higher job placement rate will not only verify that the program has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Northport AL employer relationships to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment after graduation.
Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have narrowed down your selection of welding programs to 2 or 3 options, you should consider going to the campuses to inspect their facilities. Confirm that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be taught on are modern. Specifically, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be using on the job. 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. Otherwise, ask a local Northport AL welding professional if they can give you a few suggestions.
School Location. Even though we previously briefly covered the relevance of location, there are a few additional points that we should address. You should keep in mind that unless you can move, the welding program you pick needs to be within driving distance of your Northport AL home. If you do choose to attend an out-of-state school, besides moving costs there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially true for welding degree 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 a region or state where you subsequently will desire to work.
Smaller Classes. Personalized training is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to get lost in bigger classes and not get much personalized instruction. Find out what the typical class size is for the welding programs you are reviewing. Inquire if you can sit in on a few classes so that you can observe how much personal attention the students are getting. While there, speak with a few of the students and get their feedback. Also, talk with a couple of the teachers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.
Convenient Class Scheduling. Lots of folks learn a new trade while still working at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are looking at are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Northport AL, make sure that the schools you are assessing provide those choices. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Find the Right Northport Welding School for Certification
Picking the ideal welding school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have discussed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare between the programs you are reviewing. It's a must that any welder training that you are considering includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes need to be smaller in size and every student should have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world context, and the curriculum should be current and in-line with industry standards. Courses differ in length and the type of credential offered, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and credential will best serve your needs. Each program provides different possibilities for certification as well. Perhaps the best way to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the students and instructors. Take the time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you pick is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, the end outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Northport AL.