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How to Select the Best Welder Trade School near Prichard Alabama

Prichard Alabama construction welder at work siteSelecting the right welder vocational school near Prichard AL is an important first step to beginning your new career as a professional welder. But since there are numerous schools to pick from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have narrowed down your alternatives, how do you select the right one? A number of people start by looking at the schools that are closest to their homes. Once they have found those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary concerns when examining welding trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors 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 sensible to develop a list of qualifications that your chosen 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 Degree and Certificate Programs

Prichard Alabama welder working in metal shop

There are several options to receive training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can receive a diploma, a certificate or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are offered in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available along with an apprenticeship program. Below are brief explanations of the most common welding programs available in the Prichard AL area.

  • Certificate and Diploma Programs are generally made available by technical and trade schools and take about 1 year to complete. 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 supplemental 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 furnishes a more well-rounded education than the diploma or certificate while still supplying 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. As needed, the welding school you select should ready you for any licensing exams that you will need to take in addition to furnishing the suitable training to become a qualified welder.

Welder Certification Choices

Prichard Alabama welder welding metal table

There are various organizations that offer welder certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. A large number of Prichard AL employers not only require 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 on the kind of work that the welder does. Some of the things that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to

  • Work in compliance with specific codes
  • Work with specific metal thicknesses
  • Work with various kinds of welds
  • Perform based on contract specifications

As formerly mentioned, many cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many also require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and qualified welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and make sure that the welder tech school you choose prepares you for certification if needed.

Questions to Ask Welding Tech Schools

Prichard Alabama electrician welding metal electrical beam

After you have decided on the credential you would like to attain, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to compare schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous welder trade and technical schools in the Prichard AL area. That's why it's important to decide up front what qualifications your selected school must have. We have already covered two important ones that most people look at first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are very important qualifications, they are not the only ones that must be looked at. 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 following are more factors you might want to evaluate before picking a welder tech school.

Accreditation. It's essential that the welding tech school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are 2 basic types of accreditation. The school may earn Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school has, for example Welding Technology. So make certain 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 organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping ensure that you get an excellent education, the accreditation might also assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not offered in Prichard AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.

Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welder degree or certificate programs are provided in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will assist in placing you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools must 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 assist students in finding employment and establish associations within the Prichard AL welding community.

Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that start an academic program and finish it. It's essential that the welding program you choose has a high completion rate. A reduced rate could signify that the students who joined the program were dissatisfied with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also an indication of the quality of training. A higher job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Prichard AL employer relationships to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.

Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. After you have limited your selection of welding schools to two or three options, you should consider going to the campuses to look over their facilities. Verify that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are modern. In particular, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be working with on the job. If you are unsure what to look for, and are currently in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Prichard AL welding contractor if they can give you some pointers.

School Location. Even though we already briefly talked about the significance of location, there are a few additional issues that we need to deal with. You should remember that unless you are able to move, the welding school you pick needs to be within driving distance of your Prichard AL home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides moving costs there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welder certificate programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, if the school provides a job placement or apprenticeship program, most likely their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school should be in an area or state where you ultimately will want to work.

Smaller Classes. Personalized instruction is important for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's possible to get lost in bigger classes and not obtain much one-on-one training. Find out what the typical class size is for the welder programs you are reviewing. Ask if you can attend a couple of 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 evaluations. Also, speak with a few of the trainers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.

Convenient Class Schedules. Many people learn a new trade while still employed at their present job. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are convenient enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Prichard AL, make certain that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only enroll part-time, make certain that the school you choose offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any because of illness, work or family circumstances.

Find out More About Prichard Welder Trade Schools

Choose the Right Prichard Welding Course for Certification

Selecting the right welding training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to launch your new profession. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of things that you will need to evaluate and compare among the schools you are looking at. It's a must that any welder school that you are assessing includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and every student must have their own welding machine to train with. Classroom education should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the course of study should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Training programs vary in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will need to determine what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Every program provides unique options for certification as well. Probably the best way to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the faculty and students. Take the time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, the final result will be a new trade as a professional welder in Prichard AL.

 

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