How to Enroll In a Welder Trade School in Alabama
Finding the ideal welding vocational school in Alabama is an essential first step to beginning 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 importantly, once you have narrowed down your choices, how do you pick the right one? Most people start by looking at the schools that are nearest to their homes. When they have located those that are within driving distance, they are drawn toward the least costly one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are necessary issues when examining welding technical schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations include such things as accreditation, reputation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a trade school to become a welder, it’s wise to develop a list of qualifications that your selected welding school must have. But before we explore our due diligence checklist, let’s talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Certificate and Degree Training
There are a number of options available to receive training as a welder in a trade or vocational school. You can receive a diploma, a certificate 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 made available along with an apprenticeship program. Following are brief summaries of the most prevalent welding programs offered in Alabama.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are usually made available by Alabama trade and technical schools and take about a year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, fashioned largely to develop welding skills. They can provide a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to complete and are usually offered by Alabama community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers a more extensive education than the diploma or certificate while still supplying the foundation that prepares students to enter the workforce.
A number of municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, therefore don’t forget to check for your location of potential employment. If required, the welder school you select should prep you for any licensing exams that you will have to pass in addition to supplying the suitable training to become a qualified welder in Alabama.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are several organizations that provide welding certifications, which evaluate the knowledge and skill level of those applying. A large number of Alabama employers not only expect a certificate or degree from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a respected organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A wide range of certifications are available based on the type of work that the welder does. Some of the things that certification can acknowledge are the welder’s ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with certain kinds of welds
- Perform in compliance with contract specifications
As already mentioned, many cities, states or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those requiring licensing, some additionally require certification for different types of work. Certification is also a way to demonstrate to Alabama employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable welder. So just as with licensing, check the requirements for your local area and confirm that the welding vocational school you decide on preps you for certification if needed.
Online Welder Classes
Welding is very much a manual kind of profession, and therefore not extremely compatible with online training. Even so, there are a few online welding classes offered by certain Alabama community colleges and trade schools that can be credited toward a certificate or degree program. These classes primarily cover such subjects as safety, reading blueprints, and metallurgy. They can help provide a novice a foundation to begin their training and education. However, the most important point is that you can’t learn how to weld or work with welding materials until you actually do it. Obviously that can’t be done online. These skills need to be learned in an on-campus environment or in an apprenticeship. Online or distance learning is better suited for seasoned welders that desire to advance their expertise or possibly earn a more advanced degree. So if you should find an online welding certificate or degree program, be extremely cautious and make sure that the bulk of the training is done on campus or in a workshop type of setting.
How to Select a Welding Trade Program
As soon as you have chosen the credential you would like to earn, a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to evaluate schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many welder trade and technical schools in Alabama. That’s why it’s essential to decide in advance what qualifications your chosen school must have. We have already discussed two significant ones that most people look at first, which are location and tuition cost. As stated, although they are essential qualifiers, they are not the only ones that need to be looked at. After all, the school you decide on is going to furnish the training that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So below are some additional factors you might want to evaluate before picking a welding vocational school.
Accreditation. It’s essential that the welder vocational school you decide on is accredited by either a national or a regional organization. There are two basic kinds of accreditation. The school may attain Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on an individual program the school offers, such as Welding Technology. So make certain that the program you select is accredited, not just the school itself. Additionally, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). In addition to helping make sure that you get a superior education, the accreditation might also assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for Alabama non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or municipalities that mandate licensing, they may require that the welding training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous welder degree or diploma programs are offered combined with an apprenticeship program. Various 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 placement program. The schools should have associations with local unions and various Alabama 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 develop relationships within the regional welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that start an educational program and complete it. It’s important that the welding program you select has a higher completion rate. A low rate might signify that the students who joined the program were dissatisfied with the instruction, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also an indication of the caliber of training. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the program has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Alabama contacts to help students obtain employment or apprenticeships after graduation.
Modern Facilities and Equipment. After you have decreased your selection of welder programs to two or three options, you should consider going to the campuses to look over their facilities. Confirm that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be trained on are modern. In particular, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be using in the field. If you are uncertain 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 Alabama welding professional if they can give you a few tips.
School Location. Although we previously briefly covered the significance of location, there are a few additional points that we should deal with. You should keep in mind that unless you have the ability to relocate, the welder school you choose needs to be within commuting distance of your Alabama home. If you do opt to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving expenses there might be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welder degree programs offered by community colleges. Furthermore, 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 should be in a region or state where you subsequently will want to work.
Small Classes. One-on-one instruction is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It’s possible to be overlooked in bigger classes and not get much one-on-one instruction. Find out what the usual class size is for the Alabama welder schools you are considering. Inquire if you can sit in on a couple of classes so that you can see how much individual attention the students are getting. While there, talk with several of the students and get their feedback. Similarly, chat with a couple of the instructors and find out what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they have earned.
Convenient Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their present job. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are convenient enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends in Alabama, make sure that the schools you are assessing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you choose offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Select the Best Welding Trade School in Alabama
Selecting the best welder school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have covered in this article, there are several things that you will need to assess and compare between the schools you are reviewing. It’s a prerequisite that any welding training that you are reviewing includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and each student should have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world perspective, and the course of study should be current and in-line with industry standards. Courses vary in length and the type of credential provided, so you will need to determine what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Each program provides different possibilities for certification also. Probably the best means to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the school you decide on is the ideal one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the final outcome will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Alabama.