Welding Schools: What is out there?
Community colleges, technical and trade schools, and universities
There are many different types of welding schools. Depending upon the level of certification a student wants to achieve, or how much time and money is available, there are plenty of options. Many students begin to learn welding in high school as basic welding classes are taught in high schools all over the United States. Beyond high school a welding student may choose to attend a technology college, a two-year community college, or a traditional four-year college. Technology colleges offer the most flexible option. Students typically take 8-12 months to achieve an advanced welding certificate from a technical college, depending on the program they choose and how many hours per week the student can attend. Technology colleges also offer night classes, which may be the best option for a non-traditional student. Two-year programs offered at community colleges and universities are less flexible. They have a set schedule of specific classes to take, consecutively, for two years. These programs offer hands-on experience, and an Associate’s Degree, which prepares students to either enter the work force, or a four-year welding engineering program (www.ferris.edu). Finally, there are some four-year programs (Bachelor’s Degree) offered by universities for welders who wish to expand their career by becoming welding engineers. These programs are much fewer and farther between. Relocating to another state may be necessary for those seeking this degree.
The American Welding Society (AWS) has a set of “standards and guidelines meant to assist schools in training welders” called Schools Excelling Through National Skills Education (SENSE). This program has guidelines for three levels of training: entry welder, advanced welder, and expert welder. When a student has completed a level of SENSE they may test to receive a certificate which employers will recognize. Schools may register as a SENSE school if it meets the minimum standards set up by the AWS. The AWS has a listing of welding schools on their website. The welding school locator can help you find a welding school in your area. This locator has filters to help you narrow down your search, including listing schools with SENSE certification available.
Choosing a school
When choosing a welding school, there are a few things a student should look for. Once you have located a few schools in your area, look at each school’s website and compare tuition, hours per week, and the types of certification each school offers. For example, I did a simple search and compared two trade schools in Utah. I discovered that one school, school A, costs about $1.50 per hour, whereas, school B, a similar trade school just 30 minutes south of school A, costs about $3.24 per hour. Doing a simple comparison could save you a lot of money.
When you’re applying for school look at the scholarships offered for future welders. AWS offers some district level scholarships, some national level scholarships, and one international level scholarship (www.careersinwelding.com). Go to www.careersinwelding.com for more information on the qualifications for these scholarships. Take note that most of the applications are due by February 15th. Plan ahead and apply early so you may have the chance to have part or all of your tuition paid for.
Interested in welding?
Go to www.careersinwelding.com and www.aws.org to learn more about this dynamic industry. Welders can be trained as specialized as they desire. Once trained as an entry-level welder, plan on continuing your education throughout your career. This will open up more career opportunities as you add welding skills to your resume. Many colleges and technical schools offer programs and classes to learn or specialize in different types of welding, such as underwater welding.
Written by: Melanie Manser
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