How to Pick the Right Welding Certification Program near Sheffield Alabama
Selecting the right welding vocational school near Sheffield AL is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are a lot of schools to select from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have narrowed down your alternatives, how do you select the right one? Most prospective students 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 least expensive one. Yes, location and tuition cost are important considerations when reviewing welder vocational 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 prudent to create 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 Training Courses
There are a number of options to obtain 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 Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are short descriptions of the most typical welding programs offered in the Sheffield AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are normally offered by trade and technical schools and take about 1 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 experienced welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take two years to complete and are most often 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 prepares students to enter the workforce.
Some states and municipalities do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so be sure to check for your location of potential employment. If required, the welding school you select should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will need to pass in addition to furnishing the suitable training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are multiple institutions that offer welder certifications, which test the skill level and knowledge of those applying. A large number of Sheffield AL employers not only expect a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). Different certifications are available dependent on the type of work that the welder performs. Just some of the things that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with certain types of welds
- Operate in compliance with contract specifications
As previously stated, some cities, states or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, some additionally require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and make sure that the welder trade school you decide on preps you for certification as needed.
Questions to Ask Welding Vocational Schools
As soon as you have decided on the credential you want to attain, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to assess schools. As you probably know, there are many welding trade and vocational schools in the Sheffield AL area. That's why it's essential to establish in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered 2 important ones that many people look at first, which are location and tuition cost. As stated, although they are very important qualifiers, they are not the only ones that must be looked at. After all, the school you select is going to provide the training that will be the foundation of your new profession as a welder. So following are more factors you may want to evaluate before choosing a welding tech school.
Accreditation. It's essential that the welder technical school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are two standard types of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school offers, such as Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you select is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, 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). In addition to helping make sure that you receive an excellent education, the accreditation might also help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available in Sheffield AL for schools that are not accredited. Finally, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.
Apprenticeship and Job Assistance Programs. Numerous welding degree or certificate programs are provided combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are considering help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. These 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 referrals. These programs can help students find employment and develop relationships within the Sheffield 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 essential that the welder program you pick has a higher completion rate. A lower rate may mean that the students who enrolled in the program were dissatisfied with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also an indication of the caliber of training. A higher job placement rate will not only verify that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Sheffield AL contacts to help students secure apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Modern Facilities and Equipment. Once you have limited your selection of welding schools to two or three possibilities, you should consider going to the campuses to inspect their facilities. Verify that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be using on the job. If you are not sure 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 contractor if they can give you a few tips.
School Location. Even though we already briefly discussed the importance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we should deal with. You should bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the welder program you pick must be within commuting distance of your Sheffield AL home. If you do choose to attend an out-of-state school, apart from moving expenses there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding certificate 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 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. Individualized instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to be overlooked in larger classes and not receive much personalized instruction. Ask what the average class size is for the welder programs you are considering. Ask if you can sit in on some classes so that you can see just how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, speak with some of the students and get their feedback. Also, talk to a few of the trainers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.
Flexible Class Schedules. Lots of folks learn a new profession while still employed at their present job. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are considering are convenient enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Sheffield AL, verify that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any due to illness, work or family circumstances.
Choose the Best Sheffield Welding Course for Certification
Selecting the best welder school will probably be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to assess and compare among the schools you are reviewing. It's a must that any welding school that you are assessing includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes should be smaller in size and each student must have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world perspective, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the kind of credential offered, so you will need to determine what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Each training program provides different options for certification also. Perhaps The ideal way to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Take the time to monitor some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you decide on is the best one for you. With the proper training, effort and dedication, the end outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Sheffield AL.