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How to Choose the Best Welder Technical School near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama construction welder on the jobChoosing the right welding school near Valley AL is an essential first step to launching your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to choose from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you pick the right one? A number of people begin by looking at the schools that are closest to their residences. Once they have located those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are necessary issues when evaluating welding vocational 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 trade school to become a welder, it's prudent to develop 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 Degree and Certificate Training

Valley Alabama welder working in metal shop

There are several options to get training as a welder in a technical or trade 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 made available combined with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief summaries of the most prevalent welding programs available in the Valley AL area.

  • Diploma and Certificate Programs are generally made available by technical and trade schools and require about a year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, fashioned largely to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for experienced welders.
  • Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to finish and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology provides a more well-rounded education than the diploma or certificate while still supplying the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.

Some municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so don't forget to check for your location of potential employment. As required, the welder school you choose should ready you for any licensing examinations that you will have to pass in addition to supplying the appropriate training to become a professional welder.

Welding Certification Choices

Valley Alabama welder welding metal frame

There are several institutions that provide welder certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Numerous Valley AL employers not only demand a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a renowned organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available dependent on the type of work that the welder does. Just some of the skills that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to

  • Operate in compliance with specific codes
  • Work with specific metal thicknesses
  • Work with specific types of welds
  • Perform according to contract specifications

As previously mentioned, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many also require certification for different kinds of work. Certification is also a means to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and experienced welder. So just as with licensing, look into the requirements for your location and make certain that the welding tech school you decide on prepares you for certification if needed.

Topics to Ask Welder Technical Programs

Valley Alabama welder welding electrical beam

Once you have chosen the credential you would like to attain, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of welding vocational and trade schools in the Valley AL area. That's why it's necessary to decide up front what qualifications your selected school must have. We have already discussed two important ones that most people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are very important qualifiers, they are not the only ones that should be looked at. After all, the program you select is going to provide the education that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So below are more factors you may need to evaluate before selecting a welder tech school.

Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welder technical school you decide on is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are two basic types of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a specific program the school has, for example Welding Technology. So make sure that the program you select is accredited, not just the school alone. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping make sure that you get a quality education, the accreditation might also assist in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable in Valley AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.

Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. Numerous welder diploma or degree programs are provided combined with an apprenticeship program. Other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. The schools should have partnerships with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can refer their students. Older schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can utilize for placements. These programs can assist students in finding employment and develop associations within the Valley AL welding community.

Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an instructional program and complete it. It's essential that the welder program you choose has a high completion rate. A lower rate could indicate that the students who were in the program were unhappy with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the quality of training. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the program has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Valley AL contacts to assist students secure employment or apprenticeships after graduation.

Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have narrowed down your selection of welder programs to 2 or 3 options, you should consider visiting the campuses to evaluate their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be taught on are up-to-date. In particular, 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, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. If not, ask a local Valley AL welding professional if they can give you a few suggestions.

School Location. Although we previously briefly talked about the significance of location, there are a few additional points that we should cover. You should bear in mind that unless you can move, the welding school you choose must be within commuting distance of your Valley AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welder degree 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 regional community. So the location of the school needs to be in an area or state where you subsequently will want to work.

Small Classes. One-on-one training is important for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's possible to get overlooked in larger classes and not receive much personalized instruction. Find out what the typical class size is for the welder schools you are reviewing. Inquire if you can attend some classes so that you can witness just how much personal attention the students are getting. While there, speak with some of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, talk to a couple of the instructors and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.

Flexible Class Schedules. Some people learn a new trade while still working at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Valley AL, make sure that the schools you are looking at offer those alternatives. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Valley Welding Schools

Choose the Best Valley Welding Program for Certification

Choosing the right welding school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new trade. As we have addressed in this article, there are several things that you will need to assess and compare among the schools you are considering. It's a must that any welder training that you are considering includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and each student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction should offer a real-world perspective, and the training program should be current and in-line with industry standards. Courses vary in duration and the kind of credential offered, so you will need to decide what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Each training program offers unique options for certification as well. Perhaps the best means to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the teachers and students. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you pick is the right one for you. With the right training, effort and dedication, the final result will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Valley AL.

 

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