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How to Choose the Right Welder Vocational School near Vestavia Hills Alabama

Vestavia Hills Alabama construction welder at work siteSelecting the right welder trade school near Vestavia Hills AL is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are a lot of schools to choose from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have narrowed down your alternatives, how do you pick the best one? Most prospective students begin by checking out the schools that are closest to their homes. Once they have found those that are within commuting distance, they gravitate toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important considerations when reviewing welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other concerns include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before initiating your search for a vocational 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 cover a little bit about how to become a welder.

Welder Degree and Certificate Programs

Vestavia Hills Alabama welder working in metal shop

There are several options available to receive 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 Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced programs than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also offered along with an apprenticeship program. Following are short explanations of the most common welding programs available in the Vestavia Hills AL area.

  • Diploma and Certificate Programs are usually offered by technical and trade schools and require about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, fashioned primarily 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 two years to complete and are usually offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology furnishes a more well-rounded education than the certificate or diploma while still providing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.

Many municipalities and states do have licensing prerequisites for welders, so be sure to find out for your location of potential employment. If needed, the welder school you select should ready you for any licensing exams that you will have to take in addition to furnishing the proper training to become a professional welder.

Welding Certification Options

Vestavia Hills Alabama welder welding metal table

There are multiple institutions that offer welder certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Numerous Vestavia Hills AL employers not only expect a certificate or degree from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a respected organization like the American Welding Society (AWS). Different certifications are offered based on the type of work that the welder performs. A few of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to

  • Work in compliance with specific codes
  • Work with specified metal thicknesses
  • Work with certain kinds of welds
  • Perform in compliance with contract specifications

As formerly stated, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those mandating licensing, a number also require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to employers that you are a highly skilled and qualified welder. So just as with licensing, look into the requirements for your location and confirm that the welding technical school you select readies you for certification if needed.

What to Ask Welding Trade Schools

Vestavia Hills Alabama electrician welding metal electrical pole

Once you have decided on the credential you would like to earn, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many welder trade and technical schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area. That's why it's necessary to determine up front what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered a couple of significant ones that most people consider first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that must be considered. After all, the program you pick is going to furnish the instruction that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are some additional factors you might need to evaluate before choosing a welding vocational school.

Accreditation. It's essential that the welding tech school you choose is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are two standard 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 make sure that the program you select is accredited, not just the school alone. 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). In addition to helping make sure that you receive a superior education, the accreditation may also assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable in Vestavia Hills AL for schools that are not accredited. Finally, for those states or municipalities that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.

Apprenticeship and Job Placement Programs. A large number of welder degree or certificate programs are provided combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will assist in placing you in a job or an apprenticeship after graduation. Find out if the schools you are considering help 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 larger network of graduates that they can rely upon for referrals. These programs can assist students in finding employment and establish relationships within the Vestavia Hills AL welding community.

Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that start an academic program and complete it. It's crucial that the welder school you select has a high completion rate. A reduced rate may indicate that the students who joined the program were dissatisfied with the instruction, the teachers, or the facilities, and quit. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the caliber of training. A higher job placement rate will not only confirm that the program has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL contacts to help students secure employment or apprenticeships after graduation.

Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. Once you have decreased your selection of welding schools to two or three possibilities, you should consider visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Verify that both the facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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 currently in an apprenticeship program, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL welding contractor if they can give you a few pointers.

School Location. Although we previously briefly covered the relevance of location, there are a few additional issues that we should cover. You should remember that unless you are able to move, the welding program you select needs to be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills AL home. If you do opt to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there could 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 should be in a region or state where you subsequently will want to work.

Small Classes. Individualized instruction is essential for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's easy to be overlooked in larger classes and not receive much individualized instruction. Ask what the average class size is for the welder programs you are considering. Inquire if you can sit in on a couple of classes so that you can experience how much personal attention the students are getting. While there, speak with some of the students and get their opinions. Also, chat with a few of the instructors and find out what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they hold.

Convenient Class Schedules. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their current job. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those alternatives. If you can only attend part-time, verify that the school you choose offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

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Choose the Best Vestavia Hills Welding School for Certification

Picking the best welder school will probably be the most critical decision you will make to launch your new trade. As we have covered in this article, there are several things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are looking at. It's a necessity that any welder training that you are considering includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be smaller in size and every student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom education needs to offer a real-world context, and the course of study should be current and in-line with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and credential will best serve your needs. Each program offers different options for certification as well. Perhaps The ideal means to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you choose is the right one for you. With the proper training, effort and dedication, the final outcome will be a new trade as a professional welder in Vestavia Hills AL.

 

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