How to Pick the Best Welding Degree Program near Prattville Alabama
Enrolling in the right welding school near Prattville AL is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to select from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you pick the best one? A number of people start by looking at the schools that are nearest to their residences. When they have found those that are within commuting distance, they gravitate toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary considerations when reviewing welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations 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 wise to develop 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.
Welding Certificate and Degree Programs
There are multiple alternatives available to receive training as a welder in a trade or vocational school. You can receive 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 offered along with an apprenticeship program. Below are short explanations of the most common welding programs offered in the Prattville AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are usually made available by trade and technical schools and require about 1 year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, created primarily to teach 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 complete 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 furnishing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Some states and municipalities do have licensing requirements for welders, so make sure to check for your location of potential employment. If required, the welding school you choose should ready you for any licensing exams that you will have to take in addition to providing the appropriate training to become a professional welder.
Welding Certification Alternatives
There are multiple organizations that provide welding certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Many Prattville AL employers not only require a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a highly regarded organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are available based on the type of work that the welder performs. Just some of the skills that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specified metal thicknesses
- Work with specific kinds of welds
- Perform according to contract specifications
As formerly mentioned, various states, cities or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, a number also require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are a highly skilled and knowledgeable welder. So similarly as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and verify that the welder technical school you decide on preps you for certification if needed.
Points to Ask Welder Vocational Schools
As soon as you have decided on the credential you want to obtain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous welding vocational and trade schools in the Prattville AL area. That's why it's essential to determine up front what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have previously covered a couple of important ones that many people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are very important qualifications, they are not the only ones that should be looked at. After all, the program you choose is going to furnish the training that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So below are some additional factors you might want to consider before picking a welding tech school.
Accreditation. It's essential that the welder vocational school you choose is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are 2 basic kinds of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on an individual program the school offers, for instance Welding Technology. So verify that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school alone. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized 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 can also assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available in Prattville AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or municipalities that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welder degree or diploma programs are provided combined with an apprenticeship program. Various 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. The schools should have relationships with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can refer 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 develop relationships within the Prattville AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that start an educational program and finish it. It's important that the welder program you select has a higher completion rate. A lower rate might signify that the students who enrolled in the program were unhappy with the instruction, the teachers, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also an indication of the caliber of training. A high job placement rate will not only verify that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Prattville AL employer relationships to help students secure employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.
Modern Facilities and Equipment. Once you have narrowed down your selection of welding schools to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should consider visiting the campuses to inspect their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be taught on are modern. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be using 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 Prattville AL welding contractor if they can give you some pointers.
School Location. Although we already briefly covered the relevance of location, there are a few additional points that we should deal with. You should remember that unless you can move, the welding program you choose needs to be within commuting distance of your Prattville AL home. If you do opt to attend an out-of-state school, besides relocation expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welding degree programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school provides an apprenticeship or job placement program, more than 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 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 be overlooked in larger classes and not obtain much personalized instruction. Find out what the average class size is for the welder schools you are looking at. Inquire if you can attend a few classes so that you can experience how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, speak with several of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, speak with a couple of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.
Convenient Class Schedules. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their present job. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are convenient enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Prattville AL, make certain that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only enroll part-time, make certain that the school you pick 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 Prattville Welding Course for Certification
Picking the best welder school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to start your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are several things that you will need to assess and compare among the schools you are looking at. It's a prerequisite that any welding training that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and every student should have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom education needs to offer a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Courses differ in duration and the kind of credential offered, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Every program provides unique options for certification also. Probably the best way to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Invest some time to monitor some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the program you pick is the ideal one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, the end outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in Prattville AL.