How to Pick the Right Welder Certification Program near Sheffield Alabama
Choosing the ideal welder trade school near Sheffield AL is an essential first step to beginning your new career as a professional welder. But since there are a lot of schools to pick from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have fine tuned your options, how do you select the right one? Most people begin by looking at the schools that are closest to their residences. When they have found those that are within commuting distance, they gravitate toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are necessary issues when evaluating welding trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as reputation, accreditation 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 chosen school must have. But before we delve into our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Certificate and Degree Training
There are several alternatives available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or vocational school. You can earn 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 combined with an apprenticeship program. Below are brief summaries of the most common welding programs available in the Sheffield 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 nature, fashioned largely to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or specialized skills for experienced welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take two years to finish and are most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology furnishes a more well-rounded education than the diploma or certificate while still providing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
A number of states and municipalities do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so be sure to check for your location of potential employment. As needed, the welding school you select should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will need to take in addition to supplying the appropriate training to become a qualified welder.
Welder Certification Options
There are several institutions that offer welder certifications, which test the knowledge and skill level of those applying. A large number of Sheffield AL employers not only expect a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a respected organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are available dependent on the kind of work that the welder performs. A few of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with specific types of welds
- Operate in compliance with contract specifications
As earlier mentioned, some states, cities or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those requiring licensing, some additionally require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a means to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and experienced 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 preps you for certification if needed.
Points to Ask Welder Technical Programs
After you have decided on the credential you want to obtain, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you can imagine, there are many welder trade and technical schools in the Sheffield AL area. That's why it's essential to decide in advance what qualifications your selected school must have. We have previously discussed a couple of significant ones that many people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifications, 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 profession as a welder. So below are some additional factors you might want to consider before picking a welding tech school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welding tech school you decide on is accredited by either a regional or a national organization. There are two standard kinds of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a specific program the school has, for example Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you pick is accredited, not just the school itself. Additionally, 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). Besides helping make sure that you receive an excellent education, the accreditation might also help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable in Sheffield AL for schools that are not accredited. Also, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of welding diploma or degree programs are provided in conjunction 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 considering assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. These schools should have partnerships with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can place their students. More established schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and develop associations within the Sheffield 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 important that the welder program you select has a high completion rate. A low rate could mean that the students who enrolled in the program were unhappy with the training, the teachers, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the caliber of training. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the program has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Sheffield AL contacts to help students secure apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have decreased your choice of welding programs to 2 or 3 options, you should consider visiting the campuses to evaluate their facilities. Verify that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be trained on are up-to-date. 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 currently in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Sheffield AL welding professional if they can give you some pointers.
School Location. Although we previously briefly covered the relevance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we should address. You should remember that unless you are able to move, the welder school you pick must be within driving distance of your Sheffield AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides moving expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly the case for welder degree programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school offers a job placement or apprenticeship program, more than likely their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school should be in a region or state where you ultimately will wish to work.
Small Classes. Individualized training is important for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's possible to be overlooked in bigger classes and not get much individualized training. Ask what the typical class size is for the welder schools you are looking at. Inquire if you can sit in on a couple of classes so that you can see how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, speak with several of the students and get their opinions. Also, talk to some of the trainers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Convenient Class Schedules. Many people learn a new profession while still employed at their current job. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are convenient enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Sheffield AL, make sure that the schools you are assessing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, verify that the school you decide on offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Right Sheffield Welding Program for Certification
Picking the right welding training program will probably be the most important decision you will make to launch your new trade. As we have covered in this article, there are many things that you will need to assess and compare among the programs you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any welder training program that you are assessing includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student should have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom teaching should offer a real-world context, and the curriculum should be current and conform with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and credential will best serve your needs. Every training program provides different options for certification also. Perhaps the best approach to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the faculty and students. Invest some time to attend 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 right training, effort and commitment, the final result will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Sheffield AL.