How to Choose the Best Welding Vocational School near Fairbanks Alaska
Selecting the right welder technical school near Fairbanks AK is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are numerous schools to select from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more significantly, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you pick the best one? Many prospective students start by reviewing the schools that are closest to their residences. When they have identified those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the cheapest one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are crucial considerations when examining welder technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before initiating your search for a trade school to become a welder, it's wise to create a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we examine our due diligence checklist, let's cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Certificate and Degree Training
There are multiple options available to receive training as a welder in a trade or technical school. You can receive 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 made available in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Below are short descriptions of the most prevalent welding programs available in the Fairbanks AK area.
- Diploma and Certificate Programs are normally offered by technical and trade schools and require about one year to finish. They are more hands-on training in nature, designed mainly to develop welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or supplemental 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 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 municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, so make sure to check for your location of future employment. If needed, the welder school you pick should prep you for any licensing examinations that you will need to take in addition to supplying the suitable training to become a professional welder.
Welder Certification Options
There are several institutions that provide welding certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. A large number of Fairbanks AK employers not only demand a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a renowned organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are offered dependent on the type of work that the welder performs. Just some of the things that certification can attest to are the welder's ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with specific metal thicknesses
- Work with various kinds of welds
- Work in compliance with contract specifications
As already mentioned, some states, cities 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 a highly skilled and knowledgeable welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your location and confirm that the welder trade school you decide on preps you for certification if needed.
Topics to Ask Welder Trade Programs
When you have chosen the credential you would like to earn, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can begin to assess schools. As you can imagine, there are a large number of welding trade and technical schools in the Fairbanks AK area. That's why it's essential to establish up front what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered a couple of significant ones that many people look at first, which are location and tuition cost. As mentioned, although they are essential qualifiers, they are not the only ones that should be looked at. After all, the program you select is going to provide the training that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So below are more factors you may want to evaluate before selecting a welder trade school.
Accreditation. It's very important that the welding trade school you pick is accredited by either a national or a regional agency. There are two 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 confirm that the program you choose is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, 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). Besides helping ensure that you get an excellent education, the accreditation may also assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available in Fairbanks AK for schools that are not accredited. Finally, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of welding degree or certificate programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will help place you in a job or an apprenticeship upon graduation. Ask if the schools you are looking at help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. The schools should have relationships with local unions and various metal working businesses to which they can refer their students. Older schools may have a more substantial network of graduates that they can rely upon for placements. These programs can help students find employment and develop relationships within the Fairbanks AK welding community.
Job Placement and Completion Rates. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students that enroll in an academic program and complete it. It's important that the welder program you select has a high completion rate. A lower rate could 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 caliber of training. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the program has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Fairbanks AK employer relationships to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment after graduation.
Modern Facilities and Equipment. After you have narrowed down your selection of welder schools to two or three options, you should think out visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be instructed on are up-to-date. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be working with on the job. If you are uncertain what to look for, and are currently in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Fairbanks AK 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 issues that we should cover. You should remember that unless you have the ability to relocate, the welding program you pick needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairbanks AK home. If you do opt to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation 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 offers a job placement or apprenticeship program, more than 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 wish to work.
Smaller Classes. Individualized training is essential for a hands-on trade such as welding. It's possible to be overlooked in larger classes and not get much one-on-one instruction. Ask what the usual class size is for the welding schools you are considering. Ask if you can sit in on some classes so that you can observe how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with a few of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, talk with a few of the trainers and ask what their welding experience has been and what credentials and certifications they hold.
Flexible Class Schedules. Many people learn a new trade while still employed at their current job. Check to see that the class schedules for the programs you are considering are convenient enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those alternatives. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you pick offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the protocol is to make up classes if you you miss any due to illness, work or family circumstances.
Find the Right Fairbanks Welding Course for Certification
Selecting the ideal welder school will probably be the most important decision you will make to launch your new career. As we have covered in this article, there are a number of things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the programs you are considering. It's a must that any welder training that you are considering includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and every student should have their own welding machine to train with. Classroom education needs to provide a real-world context, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Programs vary in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will have to determine what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Each training program provides unique possibilities for certification as well. Probably the best way to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the students and instructors. Invest some time to sit in on some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the school you select is the right one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, the end result will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Fairbanks AK.