How to Choose a Welder Certificate Program in California
Enrolling in the ideal welding vocational school in California is an important first step to starting your new career 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 select the right one? Most prospective students begin by looking at the schools that are closest to their residences. When they have located those that are within driving distance, they are drawn toward the least expensive one. Yes, location and the cost of tuition are important concerns when reviewing welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other factors include such things as reputation, accreditation 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 welding school must have. But before we delve into our due diligence checklist, let’s cover a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welding Degree and Certificate Training
There are a number of options to obtain training as a welder in a technical or trade 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 made available along with an apprenticeship program. Below are short explanations of the most typical welding programs available in California.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are usually offered by California technical and trade schools and require about one year to complete. They are more hands-on training in scope, created mainly to teach welding skills. They can furnish a good foundation for a new journeyman or apprentice welder, or additional skills for working welders.
- Associate Degree Programs will take 2 years to finish and are most often offered by California community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology offers a more extensive education than the diploma or certificate while still supplying the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Some municipalities and states do have licensing requirements for welders, so be sure to find out for your location of potential employment. If needed, the welding school you select should prepare you for any licensing exams that you will need to pass in addition to providing the appropriate training to become a professional welder in California.
Welding Certification Options
There are a number of institutions that offer welding certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Numerous California employers not only expect a degree or certificate from an accredited welding program, but also certification from a highly regarded agency such as the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are available based on the kind of work that the welder performs. Just some 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 various kinds of welds
- Perform based on contract specifications
As already mentioned, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing mandates for welders. Of those calling for licensing, many additionally require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a way to prove to California employers that you are an exceptionally skilled and experienced welder. So similarly as with licensing, look into the requirements for your location and confirm that the welder technical school you choose preps you for certification as needed.
Online Welding Classes
Welding is truly a manual kind of profession, and therefore not very suitable for online training. Even so, there are a few online welding programs offered by specific California community colleges and vocational schools that may be credited toward a certificate or degree program. These classes mainly cover such topics as reading blueprints, safety,, and metallurgy. They can help give a novice a foundation to initiate their education and training. Nevertheless, the most critical point is that you can’t learn how to weld or handle welding materials unless you actually do it. Naturally that can’t be performed online. These skills have to be learned in an on-campus setting or in an apprenticeship. Online or distance learning is more appropriate for experienced welders that desire to advance their expertise or possibly attain a more advanced degree. So if you should discover an online welding certificate or degree program, be extremely cautious and confirm that the bulk of the training is done on campus or in a workshop type of environment.
How to Pick a Welder Vocational School
When you have decided on the credential you would like to earn, a diploma, certificate or degree, you can start to compare schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous welder trade and vocational schools in California. That’s why it’s essential to establish up front what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have previously discussed a couple of significant ones that most 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 must be looked at. After all, the program you pick is going to provide the training that will be the foundation of your new career as a welder. So below are some additional factors you may need to consider before picking a welding technical school.
Accreditation. It’s essential that the welding trade school you select is accredited by either a regional or a national agency. There are two standard types of accreditation. The school may receive Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on an individual program the school offers, for instance Welding Technology. So verify that the program you select is accredited, not just the school alone. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example 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 help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not offered for California non-accredited schools. Finally, for those states or municipalities that require licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited also.
Job Assistance and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welding degree or diploma programs are offered in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Other schools will help place you in an apprenticeship or a job after graduation. Ask if the schools you are considering help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job placement program. The schools must have partnerships with local unions and various California metal working businesses to which they can place 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 establish associations within the regional welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that enroll in an educational program and complete it. It’s crucial that the welder program you pick has a higher completion rate. A reduced rate might signify that the students who enrolled in the program were unhappy with the instruction, the instructors, 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of California contacts to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment after graduation.
Up-to-date Facilities and Equipment. Once you have decreased your selection of welding programs to 2 or 3 options, you should think out visiting the campuses to look over their facilities. Verify that both the equipment and the facilities that you will be instructed on are up-to-date. Specifically, the training equipment should be comparable to what you will be working with in the field. If you are unsure what to look for, and are already in an apprenticeship program, consult with the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local California welding contractor if they can give you a few pointers.
School Location. Even though we already briefly covered the significance of location, there are a few additional points that we should deal with. You should remember that unless you can relocate, the welder program you choose needs to be within driving distance of your California home. If you do decide to attend an out-of-state school, apart from relocation expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is particularly true for welding certificate programs offered by community colleges. Also, if the school offers an apprenticeship or job placement program, often their placements are within the school’s regional community. So the location of the school needs to be in an area or state where you ultimately will wish to work.
Small Classes. Individualized training is important for a manual trade such as welding. It’s easy to be overlooked in larger classes and not get much personalized instruction. Find out what the typical class size is for the California welder programs you are reviewing. Ask if you can sit in on a few classes so that you can witness just how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with some of the students and get their feedback. Also, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they hold.
Flexible Class Scheduling. Some people learn a new profession while still working at their present job. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are considering are flexible enough to satisfy your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends in California, verify that the schools you are assessing offer those alternatives. If you can only attend part-time, confirm that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the policy is to make up classes if you you miss any because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Find the Right Welding Trade School in California
Choosing the right welder school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have addressed in this article, there are several factors that you will need to examine and compare between the programs you are reviewing. It’s a must that any welder training program that you are reviewing includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes should be smaller in size and each student must have their personal welding machine to train with. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world frame of reference, and the course of study should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Courses vary in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Every training program offers unique options for certification as well. Perhaps the best approach to research your short list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the teachers and students. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, the final outcome will be a new career as a professional welder in California.