How to Choose the Best Welding Certificate Program near Valley Alabama
Locating the ideal welder vocational school near Valley AL is an essential first step to beginning your new career as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to pick from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you pick the right one? Many people start by reviewing the schools that are nearest to their residences. When they have identified those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important concerns when evaluating welding vocational 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 prudent to establish a list of qualifications that your chosen school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Degree and Certificate Programs
There are several options to get 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 available in Welding Technology or Welding Engineering, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Below are brief summaries of the most common welding programs offered in the Valley AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are normally made available by trade and technical schools and require about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, created mainly to teach welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or specialized skills for experienced welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to complete and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology provides a more well-rounded education than the certificate or diploma while still supplying the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
A number of states and municipalities do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so make sure to check for your location of potential employment. As needed, the welding school you select should prep you for any licensing examinations that you will have to take in addition to furnishing the suitable training to become a professional welder.
Welding Certification Options
There are various organizations that provide welder certifications, which assess the skill level and knowledge of those applying. A large number of Valley AL employers not only require a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a renowned organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). Different certifications are available based upon the kind of work that the welder does. A few of the things that certification can acknowledge are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specific metal thicknesses
- Work with specific kinds of welds
- Work according to contract specifications
As earlier stated, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those requiring licensing, some also require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a means to demonstrate to employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and experienced welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and make sure that the welder tech school you select preps you for certification as needed.
Topics to Ask Welder Vocational Schools
Once you have chosen the credential you want to earn, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can start to assess schools. As you probably know, there are a large number of welding vocational and trade schools in the Valley AL area. That's why it's important to decide in advance what qualifications your selected school must have. We have previously covered two important ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are essential qualifiers, they are not the only ones that need to be looked at. After all, the program you pick is going to furnish the instruction that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So below are some additional factors you might need to evaluate before selecting a welder technical school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welder technical school you choose is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are two standard kinds of accreditation. The school may attain Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school has, such as Welding Technology. So confirm that the program you pick is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping ensure that you get a superior education, the accreditation can also assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available in Valley AL for non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.
Apprenticeship and Job Assistance Programs. Many welder degree or certificate programs are offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Other schools will help place you in an apprenticeship or a job upon graduation. Find out if the schools you are looking at help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. The schools should have partnerships with local unions and various 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 develop associations within the Valley AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that start an academic program and finish it. It's crucial that the welding school you pick has a higher completion rate. A lower rate may mean that the students who joined the program were unhappy with the training, the teachers, 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 affirm that the program has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Valley AL employer relationships to assist students secure employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. After you have limited your choice of welder schools to two or three options, you should think out going to the campuses to evaluate their facilities. Make sure that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are modern. 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 Valley AL welding professional if they can give you a few pointers.
School Location. Even though we already briefly discussed the significance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we should cover. You should remember that unless you have the ability to move, the welding school you pick needs to be within driving distance of your Valley AL home. If you do choose to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving expenses there may be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly the case for welding degree programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement program, more than likely their placements are within the school's local community. So the location of the school needs to be in an area or state where you subsequently will want to work.
Smaller Classes. One-on-one instruction is important for a manual trade such as welding. It's easy to get overlooked in bigger classes and not get much individualized training. Find out what the average class size is for the welding programs you are considering. Inquire if you can attend a couple of classes so that you can experience how much personal attention the students are getting. While there, speak with several of the students and get their evaluations. Also, talk with a couple of the teachers and find out what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Lots of folks learn a new trade while still working at their present job. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are looking at are convenient enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Valley AL, verify that the schools you are assessing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Valley Welding School for Certification
Choosing the right welder school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to start your new profession. As we have discussed in this article, there are many things that you will need to examine and compare between the programs you are reviewing. It's a prerequisite that any welder school that you are examining includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be small in size and each student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction needs to provide a real-world frame of reference, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will need to decide what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Every program offers different options for certification also. Probably the best way to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the faculty and students. Take the time to sit in on some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you select is the right one for you. With the right training, hard work and commitment, the end result will be a new career as a professional welder in Valley AL.