How to Find the Right Welder Degree Program near Southside Alabama
Choosing the right welding trade school near Southside AL is an essential first step to launching 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 significantly, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you select the best one? Most people start by checking out the schools that are nearest to their residences. Once they have found those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the least costly one. Yes, location and tuition cost are necessary considerations when examining welding technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before beginning your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it's wise to develop a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Certificate and Degree Training
There are a number of options 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 courses than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available combined with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief explanations of the most typical welding programs offered in the Southside AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are normally offered by technical and trade schools and require about 1 year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, fashioned largely to develop welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for experienced welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take two years to finish 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 providing the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
A number of states and municipalities do have licensing prerequisites for welders, therefore don't forget to find out for your location of potential employment. If required, the welder school you choose should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will have to take in addition to furnishing the appropriate training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Options
There are a number of organizations that provide welding certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. A large number of Southside AL employers not only demand a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available based on the kind of work that the welder does. A few of the things that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specified metal thicknesses
- Work with certain kinds of welds
- Operate based on contract specifications
As already stated, various states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many also require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a means to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and qualified welder. So similarly as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and make sure that the welder technical school you decide on preps you for certification as needed.
Topics to Ask Welder Tech Programs
Once you have chosen the credential you want to earn, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to assess schools. As you can imagine, there are a large number of welding vocational and trade schools in the Southside AL area. That's why it's essential to decide in advance what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have already discussed 2 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 need to be looked at. After all, the program you decide on is going to provide the instruction that will be the foundation of your new profession as a welder. So following are more factors you may need to evaluate before choosing a welding trade school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welding trade school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are two basic types of accreditation. The school may attain Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a specific program the school offers, for example Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, 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). Besides helping ensure that you get an excellent education, the accreditation may also help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available in Southside AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.
Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. Numerous welder degree or diploma programs are offered combined 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 considering help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. The schools should have relationships with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can place their students. Older schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can utilize for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and develop associations within the Southside AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that enroll in an educational program and finish it. It's essential that the welding school you pick has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate may mean that the students who joined the program were dissatisfied with the instruction, the instructors, 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 confirm that the program has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Southside AL employer relationships to assist students obtain employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. After you have narrowed down your selection of welder programs to 2 or 3 options, you should consider visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Make sure 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 uncertain 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 Southside AL welding professional if they can give you some pointers.
School Location. Even though we already briefly covered the relevance of location, there are a couple of additional points that we need to address. You should bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the welder school you choose needs to be within driving distance of your Southside AL home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, apart from moving costs there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially true for welder diploma programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school provides a job placement or apprenticeship program, more than likely their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school needs to be in a region or state where you ultimately will desire to work.
Small Classes. Individualized training is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to be overlooked in larger classes and not get much personalized instruction. Ask what the usual class size is for the welding schools you are looking at. Inquire if you can attend some classes so that you can witness how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with some of the students and get their opinions. Also, speak with some of the trainers and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.
Flexible Class Schedules. Many people learn a new trade while still working at their current job. Check to see that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are flexible enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Southside AL, make certain that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, confirm that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Southside Welding Program for Certification
Selecting the right welder training program will probably be the most important decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have covered 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 training that you are evaluating includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and every student must have their personal welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching needs to offer a real-world frame of reference, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Courses vary in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and credential will best satisfy your needs. Each program offers different possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best means to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the teachers and students. Invest some time to monitor some classes. Inspect 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 final result will be a new trade as a professional welder in Southside AL.