How to Choose the Right Welding Certificate Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Selecting the ideal welder vocational school near Tuscaloosa AL is an essential first step to starting 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 narrowed down your options, how do you pick the best one? Most people start by reviewing the schools that are closest to their residences. Once they have found those that are within commuting distance, they are drawn toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are necessary issues when reviewing welding technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's sensible to create a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Certificate and Degree Programs
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 in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief explanations of the most common welding programs available in the Tuscaloosa AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are generally offered by trade and technical schools and take about 1 year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, created largely to teach welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 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 furnishing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
Some municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so be sure to find out for your location of future employment. If required, the welder school you choose should ready you for any licensing exams that you will have to pass in addition to providing the suitable training to become a qualified welder.
Welding Certification Options
There are various organizations that provide welder certifications, which evaluate the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Many Tuscaloosa AL employers not only expect a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a respected agency such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available dependent on the type of work that the welder performs. Just some of the things that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Work in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specific metal thicknesses
- Work with various kinds of welds
- Work in compliance with contract specifications
As earlier mentioned, various states, cities or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those calling for licensing, a number additionally require certification for various kinds of work. Certification is also a way to prove to employers that you are a highly 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 select readies you for certification if needed.
Topics to Ask Welder Vocational Schools
Once you have chosen the credential you would like to obtain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to evaluate schools. As you can imagine, there are numerous welder trade and technical schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area. That's why it's important to decide in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already discussed a couple of significant ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that should be considered. After all, the school you decide on is going to furnish the training that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So following are more factors you may need to consider before selecting a welding trade school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welding tech school you select is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are two basic types of accreditation. The school may earn Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school has, for example Welding Technology. So confirm that the program you pick is accredited, not just the school alone. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping make sure that you receive a superior education, the accreditation might also help in getting financial aid or student loans, which are often not available in Tuscaloosa AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or municipalities that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous welder certificate or degree programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will assist in placing you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Find out if the schools you are considering assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools must have associations with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can place their students. Older schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can utilize for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and establish associations within the Tuscaloosa AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that start an instructional program and finish it. It's essential that the welder program you pick has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate might signify that the students who enrolled 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 caliber of training. A higher job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL employer relationships to assist students secure employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. Once you have narrowed down your choice of welding schools to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should consider visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Confirm that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be taught on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be working with in the field. 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. Otherwise, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL welding professional if they can give you some tips.
School Location. Even though we previously briefly talked about the relevance of location, there are a few additional points that we should deal with. You should keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the welding school you select needs to be within commuting distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. If you do opt to enroll in an out-of-state school, apart from moving expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly the case for welder diploma programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, if the school provides a job placement or apprenticeship program, most likely their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school should be in a region or state where you ultimately will want to work.
Small Classes. Personalized instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to get lost in larger classes and not get much one-on-one training. Find out what the average class size is for the welding schools you are considering. Inquire if you can attend a couple of classes so that you can see how much personal attention the students are getting. While there, talk with some of the students and get their feedback. Also, chat with a couple of the teachers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.
Convenient Class Scheduling. Lots of folks learn a new trade while still employed at their current job. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are considering are flexible enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Tuscaloosa Welding Course for Certification
Selecting the right welder school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have addressed in this article, there are several factors that you will need to assess and compare between the programs you are looking at. It's a must that any welder school that you are assessing includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes need to be smaller in size and every student should have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world perspective, and the course of study should be current and in-line with industry standards. Training programs differ in length and the kind of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best satisfy your needs. Each program offers unique possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best means to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Take the time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you pick is the ideal one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the final result will be a new career as a professional welder in Tuscaloosa AL.