So you are thinking about attending a welding school. Welding is a great career and can pay off if you play your cards right. Below you will find some great tips for choosing a welding school. Learn what to look for in a quality school so you don’t get ripped off or pay to much!
You may also find the following articles and links helpful
- National Welding School Directory
- How Much Welders Make In The Real World
- Welding Certification Information
- Welding Tips (MIG, TIG & Stick)
Advice & Tips For Choosing a Quality Welding School
These tips are in no specific order as they are all very important! You may not find a school that has every point I make below so you will have to find a balance. Beaware that there are many fly by night welding schools.
1) Are you sure welding is for you?
This may be a no brainer but I thought is was worth a mention. If you have never welded before I highly suggest that you take a general welding class prior to attending a full time welding school. Be aware that welding is dirty, hot and you will may be working at height. My article “How To Become A Welder” may give you some insight into what type of personality, work ethic and skills it takes to be a welder.
2) What type of welding program to attend? Pipe, Plate or Combo welding?
Any good welding school should offer a combo welding program. This means that you will learn to weld pipe as well as plate. You should also get hands on welding training with all of the major welding process including Stick/SMAW, MIG/GMAW, TIG/GTAW and also Flux Cored Arc Welding/FCAW. In addition to welding pipe and plate you should be taught to weld in different welding positions.
3) How Long should a welding program be?
If you are attending a combo welding program that is full time (8 hours a day or more) the program should be anywhere from 9 months to about a year and a half. This will also depended on if you are taking additional classes in order to earn an Associate’s Degree. I just wrote an article “How Long Is Welding School” that goes into more detail.
4) What type of classes should a welding school offer?
Simple, welding classes! Okay it’s not really that simple. In Addition to learning all of the major welding process you should have a few additional classes.
- Blueprint Reading – This is a must and should be offered!
- Metallurgy – This is not a must but can be helpful.
- Welding Inspection – Not a must but is great if offered.
- Metal Cutting – You must be able to cut well with a torch and plasma cutter.
- Pipe Fitting – This is also very important and should be offered.
5) Welding Booth to Student Ratio
I really want to see a 1 to 1 ratio on this if at all possible! Welding is all about practice. The more arc time you get the better. If you have three students stuffed in a welding booth that won’t happen. A number of schools have two student per booth which is tolerable to a degree.
6) Welding Certifications
Okay let’s get something out of the way here that can be confusing, welding certifications and a welding certificate. These are two different things.
- Welding Certification – This is a welding test that you take to prove your skill with a specific welding process, on a specific metal and joint in a specific welding position. After you complete the welding certification test it will be tested for defects. If you pass then you will have one welding certification. In depth information about welding certification can be found here.
- Welding Certificate – This is a piece of paper that welding school will give you when you complete their welding program. It really doesn’t mean a lot.
It is a great thing if a welding school offer in house welding certifications like the AWS D1.1 and/or ASME Section IX in all positions. Welding certifications open a lot of doors and communicate real skill to employers. If your school doesn’t offer certification testing I suggest that you get two certifications thru a third party as soon as you graduate.
7) Welding school cost… Show me the money!
Are you overpaying? Underpaying? Getting a fair deal? I can tell you that you are most likely not getting a bargain. The easy access to student loans has driven up the cost of any type of education dramatically over the last 20 years. Costs vary by state also so it is hard for me to give you a number. It also depends on the length of school. I would get the numbers from the school (final cost not just tuition) and compare them to other schools in the same state.
This formula may be helpful: Total Final Cost ÷ Program Length (Weeks) = Cost Per Week (Compare this number to all schools)
Remember to keep in mind that if a school offers more than another school that it may justify a higher cost. Example: If a school offers one in house welding certification test you can figure that it’s worth about $500 in testing fees. If you are looking for more in depth information you may find my article “welding school cost” helpful.
8) Associate’s Degree or Not
I attended a welding school where I did earn an Associate’s degree. The disadvantage is that it costs more but it has several advantages.
- You can go back to school at a later date to earn a more advanced degree.
- It can help to have a degree when applying for managerial positions in the future.
- It may help you get a higher pay rate.
- It may give you slight edge when applying to certain companies.
I can’t tell you whether you should choose a degree program or not but I will say it is most important to have solid welding skills when you graduate! There are a many welders that make a ton of money with and without degrees. Find out how much welder earn here.