How to Select the Right Welder Degree Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Finding the right welder vocational school near Tuscaloosa AL is an essential first step to launching your new career as a professional welder. But since there are numerous schools to choose from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have fine tuned your choices, how do you select the best one? Many prospective students start by reviewing the schools that are closest to their residences. When they have located those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and tuition cost are crucial issues when reviewing welding vocational schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns 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 wise to develop a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we examine our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Degree and Certificate Training
There are multiple options available to get training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a diploma, a certificate 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 offered along with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief summaries of the most prevalent welding programs available in the Tuscaloosa AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are normally offered by technical and trade schools and require about a year to finish. 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 supplemental 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 offers a more extensive education than the diploma or certificate while still supplying the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Many municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so make sure to check for your location of potential employment. As required, the welding school you pick should ready you for any licensing examinations that you will need to pass in addition to providing the suitable training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Options
There are various institutions that offer welder certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Many Tuscaloosa AL employers not only require a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a highly regarded agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). Different certifications are offered based upon the kind of work that the welder performs. A few of the skills that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with specific kinds of welds
- Operate based on contract specifications
As earlier stated, many cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those calling for licensing, a number additionally require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are a highly skilled and knowledgeable welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and verify that the welder vocational school you select prepares you for certification if needed.
Points to Ask Welding Vocational Programs
When you have decided on the credential you want to earn, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to compare schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welder trade and vocational schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area. That's why it's necessary to determine in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered 2 important 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 must be looked at. After all, the program you choose 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 need to consider before picking a welding tech school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welding trade school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are two basic 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 example Welding Technology. So confirm that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school alone. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, the accreditation might also help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available in Tuscaloosa 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. Numerous welder certificate or degree programs are offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Other schools will assist in placing you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Find out 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 more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon for placements. These programs can assist students in finding employment and establish relationships 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 finish it. It's crucial that the welder program you select has a high completion rate. A low rate might signify that the students who were in the program were dissatisfied with the instruction, the instructors, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also an indication of the quality of training. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the program has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL employer relationships to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. After you have narrowed down your selection of welding schools to two or three possibilities, you should think out going to the campuses to look over their facilities. Make sure that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be taught on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be working with in the field. If you are not sure what to look for, and are already in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL welding professional if they can give you a few suggestions.
School Location. Although we already briefly covered the significance of location, there are a couple of additional points that we should cover. You should remember that unless you can relocate, the welder program you pick needs to be within commuting distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. If you do choose to attend an out-of-state school, apart from relocation expenses there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welder diploma programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, if the school offers a job placement or apprenticeship 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 subsequently will desire to work.
Smaller Classes. Personalized training is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to be overlooked in bigger classes and not receive much individualized training. Find out what the usual class size is for the welding schools you are considering. Inquire if you can sit in on a couple of classes so that you can witness just how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, speak with a few of the students and get their evaluations. Similarly, talk to a couple of the instructors and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Flexible Class Schedules. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are convenient enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only enroll part-time, 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 because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Tuscaloosa Welding Program for Certification
Choosing the best welding training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have discussed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare between the programs you are looking at. It's a prerequisite that any welding school that you are evaluating includes a lot of hands-on training. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student must have their own welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world perspective, and the curriculum should be current and in-line with industry standards. Courses vary in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Every training program provides unique options for certification as well. Perhaps The ideal way to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and speak 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 program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, the end result will be a new trade as a professional welder in Tuscaloosa AL.