How to Pick a Welding Degree Program near Birmingham Alabama
Locating the ideal welding school near Birmingham AL is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a professional welder. But since there are so many schools to select from, how do you know which ones to consider? And more importantly, once you have fine tuned your options, how do you pick the right one? A number of prospective students start by reviewing the schools that are nearest to their residences. Once they have found those that are within driving distance, they gravitate toward the least costly one. Yes, location and tuition cost are crucial issues when examining welder trade schools, but they are not the only ones. Other considerations include such things as reputation, accreditation and job placement rates. So before starting your search for a vocational school to become a welder, it’s sensible to develop a list of qualifications that your selected school must have. But before we examine our due diligence checklist, let’s talk a little bit about how to become a welder.
Welder Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives available to obtain training as a welder in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a a certificate, a diploma or an Associate Degree. Bachelor Degrees are available in Welding Engineering or Welding Technology, but are more advanced degrees than most journeyman welders will need. Some programs are also made available in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Following are short explanations of the most prevalent welding programs available in the Birmingham AL.
- Certificate and Diploma Programs are generally made available by trade and technical schools and take about a year to complete. They are more hands-on training in nature, fashioned mainly 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 finish and are most often offered by community colleges. An Associate Degree in Welding Technology furnishes a more well-rounded education than the certificate or diploma while still supplying the foundation that readies students to enter the workforce.
Some states and municipalities do have licensing requirements for welders, therefore make sure to find out for your location of potential employment. As required, the welding school you select should prepare you for any licensing examinations that you will have to take in addition to supplying the appropriate training to become a qualified welder.
Welder Certification Alternatives
There are a number of organizations that offer welding certifications, which evaluate the skill level and knowledge of those applying. Numerous Birmingham AL employers not only require a degree or certificate from an accredited welding school, but also certification from a renowned agency like the American Welding Society (AWS). A variety of certifications are offered based upon the type of work that the welder performs. A few of the skills that certification can attest to are the welder’s ability to
- Operate in compliance with specific codes
- Work with certain metal thicknesses
- Work with certain types of welds
- Work based on contract specifications
As earlier mentioned, various cities, states or local municipalities have licensing requirements for welders. Of those mandating licensing, many also require certification for various types of work. Certification is also a means to demonstrate to employers that you are an extremely skilled and experienced welder. So similarly as with licensing, look into the requirements for your local area and make certain that the welder trade school you choose preps you for certification if needed.
How to Pick a Welding Technical Program
When you have chosen the credential you would like to obtain, a degree, certificate or diploma, you can start to evaluate schools. As you can imagine, there are a large number of welder trade and technical schools in the Birmingham AL area. That’s why it’s necessary to decide in advance what qualifications your school of choice must have. We have already covered 2 significant ones that many people consider first, which are location and the cost of tuition. As stated, although they are very important qualifiers, they are not the only ones that must be looked at. After all, the program you pick is going to provide the education that will be the foundation of your new vocation as a welder. So following are some additional factors you may need to evaluate before picking a welder vocational school.
Accreditation. It’s essential that the welder vocational school you choose is accredited by either a regional or a national organization. There are 2 basic kinds of accreditation. The school may attain Institutional Accreditation based on all of their programs. Programmatic Accreditation is based on a single program the school has, such as Welding Technology. So confirm that the program you pick is accredited, not just the school itself. Also, the accreditation should be by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Besides helping make sure that you get an excellent education, the accreditation may also help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable in Birmingham AL for non-accredited schools. Also, for those states or local governments that mandate licensing, they may require that the welder training program be accredited as well.
Job Placement and Apprenticeship Programs. Many welder degree or diploma programs are provided in conjunction with an apprenticeship program. Various other schools will assist in placing you in a job or an apprenticeship after graduation. Ask if the schools you are looking at help in placing students in apprenticeships or have a job assistance program. These schools must have partnerships with local unions and other metal working businesses to which they can place their students. More established schools may have a larger network of graduates that they can utilize for referrals. These programs can help students find employment and develop relationships within the Birmingham AL welding community.
Completion and Job Placement Rates. The completion rate is the percentage of students that begin an academic program and finish it. It’s essential that the welding program you pick has a high completion rate. A lower rate could mean that the students who enrolled in the program were unhappy with the training, the instructors, or the facilities, and dropped out. The job placement rate is also a good indicator of the caliber of training. A higher 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 Birmingham AL contacts to help students obtain employment or apprenticeships upon graduation.
Up-to-date Equipment and Facilities. After you have narrowed down your selection of welder schools to two or three possibilities, 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 similar 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, ask the master welder you are working under for guidance. Otherwise, ask a local Birmingham AL welding contractor if they can give you a few tips.
School Location. Although we already briefly talked about the importance of location, there are a few additional issues that we should deal with. You should bear in mind that unless you have the ability to move, the welding program you choose must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. If you do decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving expenses there could be higher tuition fees for out-of-state residents. This is especially the case for welder certificate programs offered by community colleges. Additionally, 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 ultimately will want to work.
Smaller Classes. Personalized training is essential for a manual trade such as welding. It’s possible to get overlooked in larger classes and not get much individualized instruction. Ask what the average class size is for the welder schools you are considering. Inquire if you can attend some classes so that you can witness how much individual attention the students are receiving. While there, talk with a few of the students and get their opinions. Also, speak with some of the teachers and ask what their welding experience has been and what certifications and credentials they hold.
Convenient Class Schedules. Lots of folks learn a new trade while still working at their present job. Confirm 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 Birmingham AL, make sure that the schools you are assessing provide those options. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you decide on offers part-time enrollment. Also, check to see what the protocol is to make up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Will You Be Attending Welding School Near Birmingham AL?
Perhaps you live in the Birmingham Alabama area, or have decided to enroll in a Welding Program that has a campus near there. In either case, you may find this bit of history both interesting and informative.
Birmingham (/ˈbɜːrmɪŋhæm/ BUR-ming-ham) is a city in the north central region of the U.S. state of Alabama. With an estimated 2018 population of 209,880, it is the most populous city in Alabama. Birmingham is the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous and fifth largest county. As of 2018, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 1,151,801, making it the most populous in Alabama and 49th-most populous in the United States. Birmingham serves as an important regional hub and is associated with the Deep South, Piedmont, and Appalachian regions of the nation.
Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, through the merger of three farm towns, most notably Elyton. The new city was named for Birmingham, England, the UK's second largest city and, at the time, a major industrial center. The Alabama city annexed smaller neighbors and developed as an industrial center, based on mining, the new iron and steel industry, and rail transport. Most of the original settlers who founded Birmingham were of English ancestry. The city was developed as a place where cheap, non-unionized immigrant labor (primarily Irish and Italian), along with African-American labor from rural Alabama, could work in the city's steel mills and blast furnaces, giving it a competitive advantage over unionized industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast.:14
From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the southern United States. Its rapid growth from 1881 through 1920 earned it the nicknames "The Magic City" and "The Pittsburgh of the South". Its major industries were iron and steel production. Major components of the railroad industry, rails and railroad cars, were manufactured in Birmingham. Since the 1860s, the two primary hubs of railroading in the "Deep South" have been Birmingham and Atlanta. The economy diversified in the latter half of the 20th century. Banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance have become major economic activities. Birmingham ranks as one of the largest banking centers in the U.S. Also, it is among the most important business centers in the Southeast.
Online Welder Schools
Welding is truly a manual type of trade, and for that reason not very suitable for training online. Having said that, there are a small number of online welding programs offered by certain community colleges and trade schools in the greater Birmingham AL area that may count toward a degree or certificate program. These courses primarily cover such topics as safety, reading blueprints, and metallurgy. They can help give a novice a foundation to initiate their training and education. However, the most critical point is that you can’t learn how to weld or use welding materials unless you actually do it. Naturally that can’t be performed online. These skills have to be learned in an on-campus environment or in an apprenticeship. Online or distance learning is better suited for seasoned welders that would like to advance their knowledge or perhaps earn a more advanced degree. So if you should discover an online welding certificate or degree program, be extremely cautious and verify that the majority of the training is done on campus or in a workshop type of environment.
Pick the Ideal Welding Trade School Birmingham AL
Selecting the ideal welding school will probably be the most critical decision you will make to launch your new profession. As we have covered in this article, there are many factors that you will need to examine and compare among the schools you are looking at. It’s a necessity that any welder training that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes should be small in size and each student should have their own welding machine to train on. Classroom teaching should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Programs differ in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and degree or certificate will best serve your needs. Each program provides unique options for certification as well. Probably the best way to research your short list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the school you select is the ideal one for you. With the right training, hard work and commitment, the end outcome will be a new occupation as a professional welder in Birmingham AL.