How to Find the Best Welder Trade School near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Selecting the ideal welding school near Vestavia Hills AL is an important first step to beginning 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 choices, how do you pick the right one? A number of prospective students begin by checking out the schools that are nearest to their residences. When they have located those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important 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 beginning your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's sensible to create 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.
Welder Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of options available to obtain training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can earn a diploma, a certificate 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 in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are short explanations of the most common welding programs available in the Vestavia Hills AL area.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are generally made available by trade and technical schools and require about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, fashioned primarily to teach welding skills. They can provide 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 most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology provides a more well-rounded education than the certificate or diploma while still furnishing the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
Some municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, therefore make sure to find out for your location of future employment. If required, the welding school you choose should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will need to pass in addition to supplying the proper training to become a professional welder.
Welding Certification Alternatives
There are various organizations that offer welder certifications, which assess the knowledge and skill level of those applying. Numerous Vestavia Hills AL employers not only demand a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are offered based on the type of work that the welder does. Some of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specific metal thicknesses
- Work with certain kinds of welds
- Work in compliance with contract specifications
As previously mentioned, some cities, states or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, a number additionally require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and experienced welder. So similarly as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and make sure that the welding technical school you select prepares you for certification if needed.
What to Ask Welding Vocational Programs
When you have decided on the credential you want to obtain, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to compare schools. As you can imagine, there are a large number of welding trade and vocational schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area. That's why it's important to establish up front what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have already covered two important ones that most people look at first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifications, they are not the only ones that need to be considered. After all, the program you choose is going to provide the education that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are more factors you might want to evaluate before choosing a welder technical school.
Accreditation. It's extremely important that the welder technical school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are 2 basic kinds of accreditation. The school may earn 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 certain 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 agency, like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, the accreditation can also assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available in Vestavia Hills AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous welding certificate or degree programs are provided combined with an apprenticeship program. Some other schools will assist in placing you in an apprenticeship or a job after graduation. Ask if the schools you are reviewing assist in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. The schools should have associations with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can refer their students. Older schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can utilize for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and establish associations within the Vestavia Hills AL welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an academic program and complete it. It's important that the welding school you choose has a higher completion rate. A low rate may mean that the students who enrolled in the program were unhappy with the instruction, the teachers, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also an indication of the quality of training. A high job placement rate will not only verify that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL employer relationships to help students secure apprenticeships or employment upon graduation.
Modern Facilities and Equipment. Once you have decreased your choice of welder programs to 2 or 3 possibilities, you should consider visiting the campuses to inspect their facilities. Make sure that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be trained on are modern. Specifically, the training equipment should be similar to what you will be using 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 Vestavia Hills AL welding professional if they can give you some tips.
School Location. Although we previously briefly discussed the importance of location, there are a couple of additional issues that we need to cover. You should remember that unless you have the ability to move, the welding school you select must be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills AL home. If you do opt to attend an out-of-state school, apart from moving expenses there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding certificate programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, if the school provides a job placement or apprenticeship program, more than likely their placements are within the school's regional community. So the location of the school should be in a region or state where you subsequently will wish to work.
Smaller Classes. Personalized training is important for a manual trade such as welding. It's possible to get overlooked in larger classes and not obtain much personalized instruction. Find out what the typical class size is for the welding schools you are looking at. Inquire if you can attend some classes so that you can witness how much personal attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with some of the students and get their evaluations. Also, chat with a couple of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they have earned.
Convenient Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new trade while still employed at their present job. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are looking at are flexible enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, make sure that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Vestavia Hills Welding Course for Certification
Choosing the right welding training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have discussed in this article, there are many things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are considering. It's a prerequisite that any welding training program that you are examining includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student must have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world context, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Training programs vary in length and the kind of credential provided, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Each program offers different options for certification also. Probably the best means to research your short list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Take the time to attend a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the school you choose is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, effort and commitment, the final result will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Vestavia Hills AL.