How to Select the Right Welder Certificate Program near Opelika Alabama
Selecting the ideal welder school near Opelika AL is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to choose from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have narrowed down your alternatives, how do you pick the right one? Many prospective students start by reviewing the schools that are closest to their homes. When they have located those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the least costly one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are crucial considerations when evaluating welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before initiating your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's prudent to create 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.
Welder Degree and Certificate Training Classes
There are multiple options available to receive training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can earn a diploma, a certificate or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced courses than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Below are brief explanations of the most prevalent welding programs offered in the Opelika AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are normally offered by trade and technical schools and require about one year to finish. They are more hands-on training in scope, created largely to develop welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or specialized skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to complete 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 providing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Many municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, therefore don't forget to find out for your location of potential employment. As needed, the welding school you select should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will have to take in addition to providing the proper training to become a professional welder.
Welding Certification Choices
There are multiple institutions that offer welding certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. A large number of Opelika AL employers not only demand a certificate or degree from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a highly regarded organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available based upon the kind of work that the welder does. A few of the skills that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specific metal thicknesses
- Work with various types of welds
- Operate according to contract specifications
As earlier mentioned, various states, cities or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many also require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a means to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and knowledgeable welder. So just as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and make sure that the welding vocational school you decide on readies you for certification if needed.
What to Ask Welding Trade Schools
After you have decided on the credential you would like to earn, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to assess schools. As you can imagine, there are a large number of welder vocational and trade schools in the Opelika AL area. That's why it's essential to determine up front what qualifications your selected school must have. We have previously discussed 2 important ones that most people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As stated, although they are essential qualifiers, they are not the only ones that must be looked at. After all, the program you decide on is going to furnish the instruction that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So below are some additional factors you might need to consider before choosing a welding technical school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welder tech school you select is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. 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 offers, such as Welding Technology. So verify that the program you select is accredited, not just the school alone. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping make sure that you get a quality education, the accreditation may also help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable in Opelika AL for schools that are not accredited. Also, for those states or local governments that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.
Apprenticeship and Job Assistance Programs. A large number of welding diploma or degree programs are offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Other schools will assist in placing you in an apprenticeship or a job after graduation. Ask if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools must have partnerships with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can place their students. Older schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon for referrals. These programs can assist students in finding employment and develop associations within the Opelika AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that start an academic program and finish it. It's important that the welder program you pick has a higher completion rate. A low rate may indicate that the students who enrolled in the program were dissatisfied with the training, the teachers, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the quality of training. A higher job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Opelika AL employer relationships to help students secure employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. After you have limited your choice of welder schools to two or three options, you should consider visiting the campuses to inspect their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be instructed on are modern. In particular, the training equipment should be similar 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. If not, ask a local Opelika AL welding professional if they can give you some suggestions.
School Location. Even though we previously briefly talked about the importance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we should cover. You should bear in mind that unless you have the ability to relocate, the welder school you pick must be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation expenses there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welding 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 needs to be in an area or state where you ultimately will desire to work.
Small Classes. One-on-one instruction is important for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's easy to get overlooked in larger classes and not obtain much individualized training. Ask what the typical class size is for the welding schools you are reviewing. Inquire if you can attend a couple of classes so that you can experience just how much personal attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with a few of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, talk to a few of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Convenient Class Schedules. Some people learn a new trade while still working at their present job. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are looking at are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Opelika AL, make sure 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 decide on offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any due to work, illness or family circumstances.
Choose the Right Opelika Welding Program for Certification
Choosing the best welding training program will probably be the most important decision you will make to begin your new trade. As we have addressed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to assess and compare among the schools you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any welder training program that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes should be small in size and every student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction should offer a real-world context, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Programs differ in length and the kind of credential offered, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Every training program provides unique possibilities for certification as well. Perhaps The ideal means to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Take the time to attend some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the end outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in Opelika AL.