How to Select the Right Welder Trade School near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Enrolling in the ideal welding vocational school near Tuscaloosa AL is an important first step to beginning your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to pick from, how do you determine which ones to consider? And more notably, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you pick the best one? Many people begin by looking at the schools that are nearest to their residences. When they have located those that are within driving distance, they gravitate 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 considerations include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's prudent to establish a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we delve into our due diligence checklist, let's talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Certificate and Degree Training Courses
There are multiple alternatives available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can earn a a certificate, a diploma 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 combined with an apprenticeship program. Following are short explanations of the most prevalent welding programs available in the Tuscaloosa AL area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are usually made available by trade and technical schools and require about a year to finish. They are more hands-on training in nature, created largely to develop welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or supplemental skills for experienced welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to finish and are most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers 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 prerequisites for welders, therefore be sure to find out for your location of potential employment. As needed, the welder school you pick should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will need to pass in addition to furnishing the proper training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Options
There are multiple institutions that offer welder certifications, which test the knowledge and skill level of those applying. A large number of Tuscaloosa AL employers not only demand 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 available based upon the type of work that the welder performs. Just some of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specified metal thicknesses
- Work with certain kinds of welds
- Perform in compliance with contract specifications
As already stated, various states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those calling for licensing, some also require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are a highly skilled and experienced welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and confirm that the welder trade school you select prepares you for certification if needed.
What to Ask Welding Trade Programs
As soon as you have chosen the credential you would like to obtain, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welding trade and technical schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area. That's why it's important to determine up front what qualifications your selected school must have. We have already discussed two significant ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifiers, they are not the only ones that need to be considered. After all, the school you pick is going to furnish the education that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So following are some additional factors you may need to consider before choosing a welding trade school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welding technical school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are two standard kinds of accreditation. The school may earn Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school offers, for instance Welding Technology. So make sure that the program you select is accredited, not just the school itself. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping make sure that you get a quality education, the accreditation can also assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available in Tuscaloosa AL for schools that are not accredited. Also, for those states or local governments that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of welding certificate or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will help place you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are looking at assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. These schools must have relationships with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can place their students. More established schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can rely upon for referrals. These programs can assist students in finding employment and establish associations within the Tuscaloosa AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an educational program and complete it. It's essential that the welding school you select has a high completion rate. A reduced rate could mean that the students who joined the program were dissatisfied with the instruction, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the quality of training. A higher job placement rate will not only affirm that the program has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL contacts to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. After you have decreased your choice of welding schools to 2 or 3 options, you should think out visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Confirm that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be taught 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 already in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL welding contractor if they can give you some tips.
School Location. Although we previously briefly talked about the relevance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we should deal with. You should remember that unless you are able to move, the welder program you choose needs to be within commuting distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welding degree programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, 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 a region or state where you ultimately will desire to work.
Small Classes. Individualized training is important for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's easy to be lost in bigger classes and not obtain much individualized instruction. Find out what the average class size is for the welding programs you are considering. Ask if you can sit in on a few classes so that you can see just how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, talk with a few of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, speak with some of the instructors and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Lots of folks learn a new trade while still working at their current job. Check to see that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are convenient enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make sure that the schools you are assessing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you decide on offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Tuscaloosa Welding Training for Certification
Picking the right welder school will probably be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have covered in this article, there are many factors that you will need to examine and compare between the programs you are looking at. It's a must that any welder training program that you are examining includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be small in size and every student should have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom teaching needs to offer a real-world context, and the training program should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Courses vary in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will need to determine what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Every program provides different options for certification as well. Perhaps the best way to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Take the time to monitor a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the school you select is the right one for you. With the right training, effort and dedication, the final outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Tuscaloosa AL.