How to Select a Plumbing Technical School in Alabama
The first step to becoming a plumbing contractor or tradesman is finding a plumbing trade school in Alabama. But with so many technical schools to choose from, just how do you tackle making certain that you enroll in the right one? Particularly because there are so many factors to examine. For example, some students will start by searching for schools that are nearby their home. Once they have located several that are within commuting distance, they will select the one with the least expensive tuition. Although cost and location are of importance, they are not the sole factors that need to be evaluated. Also critical are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, in addition to their graduation and job placement rates. These and other qualifications should contribute toward your final judgment when selecting a plumbing training school. We will address that checklist in greater detail later in this article. But first, let’s talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the training choices that are offered.
Becoming a Plumber
Almost everyone at one time or another has needed the services of a professional plumber. It may have been due to a leaky faucet or perhaps a hot water heater needed to be replaced. Plumbers provide a valuable service for the maintenance of both commercial and residential buildings. They are skilled tradesmen who are trained in the installation, repair and replacement of plumbing systems. These systems include pipes, plumbing fixtures, water based heating and cooling, sewage removal and sprinklers. A plumber in Alabama will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.
- Apprentice. The majority of plumbers begin their careers as an Apprentice. Apprenticeships are often completed in tandem with a formalized plumbing training program. Apprentices are typically paid but unlicensed and work under the guidance of a licensed plumber during working hours and attend plumber training classes at night. The second phase of their career begins once the apprenticeship and the training program have been completed.
- Journeyman Plumber. Once the apprenticeship has been completed as well as any required training program, application for Journeyman Plumber licensing can be made. Most often licensing is controlled by the state but can be managed more locally at the county or city level. A Journeyman license will only be issued after all requirements have been met, including a passing score on the licensing exam. Even though a Journeyman is more knowledgeable and experienced than an Apprentice, they generally must continue to be supervised, in this case by a Master Plumber.
- Master Plumber. After attaining the necessary work experience and completing any additional educational requirements, the Journeyman can apply to become a Master Plumber. Once again a passing score must be achieved on the licensing exam before a license will be issued. There are several benefits to advancing to the Master Plumber level, including earnings at the highest pay level, unsupervised working conditions, and the ability to start and own a business. Master Plumbers may also hire and supervise both Journeymen and Apprentices.
As a technical field requiring a high level of skill and competence, plumbing can take years of both training and experience to master. As a consequence, the best opportunity for success for a new Apprentice in Alabama is to enroll in a plumbing technology program that will provide the comprehensive quality training needed to embark on this challenging career.
Plumbing Certificate and Degree Programs
There are several options available to receive the necessary training to begin your career as a plumber. As far as the schools offering programs, you can enroll in a trade, technical or vocational school as well as a local community college. The programs offered will vary, but in general the shortest is the certificate program which will focus on the fundamentals and generally take about a year to complete. An Associate Degree will take 2 years to complete and will provide a more comprehensive education. There are some Alabama colleges that do offer a Bachelor Degree in plumbing technology, which are 4 year programs and much broader in nature. When choosing a school and program, naturally the completion time and the cost will be important factors. Tuition can vary significantly among the various schools and colleges and for some private schools can be quite expensive. State schools and community colleges typically offer their programs at the lower end of the tuition scale. However, when making your comparisons, keep in mind that many schools offer financial aid and even scholarships to help offset some of the financial burden. So be sure to find out what is available for each school and program before making your final decision.
Things to Ask Plumbing Trade Schools
Now that you have decided to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to refine your school options. Considering that there are numerous Alabama plumbing trade and vocational schools in your area, it’s important to have a checklist of criteria that each school must satisfy. The first two that we mentioned were location and tuition expense. And while both qualifiers may be crucial when making your determination, there are other variables that need to be taken into account as well. Following is a checklist of those additional qualifications that you will need to assess prior to selecting a plumber trade school.
Is the Plumbing School Accredited? A large number of plumbing trade schools have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school’s programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as plumbing technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited Alabama schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the plumbing training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing or certification.
Is the Plumbing School Licensed? In addition to accreditation, an additional way of confirming that a vocational school you’re reviewing is reputable is by making sure that it’s properly licensed. Licensing is typically regulated and controlled by state agencies, such as the Alabama Department of Education. If you’re not sure, ask the school which state agency is responsible for its licensing and then verify that it’s up to date.
How Long has the School been in Business? Another means of determining the quality of a technical school is to find out how long it’s been in business. The longer a school has been in operation, the more likely that its programs are highly rated and regarded. Conversely, schools that are not well regarded or that provide low quality training generally don’t stand the test of time. However, keep in mind that even the best of Alabama schools had to start from their first day of operation, so only use it as one of several qualifications for each school you are considering.
What are the School’s Completion and Placement Rates? Ask the plumbing schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It’s also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Alabama contacts to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored? A large number of plumber trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating Alabama technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with area plumbers or plumbing professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional plumbing professional community.
Are there Modern Facilities? Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the master plumber you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Alabama plumbing contracting company if they can provide some pointers.
Where is the School Located? Unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Alabama residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Are there Smaller Classes? It’s important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is in Alabama and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Is the Class Schedule Convenient? Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends in Alabama, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those options. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Find the Right Plumbing Vocational School in Alabama
Picking the right plumbing training program will probably be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have discussed in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to assess and compare between the training programs you are looking at. It’s a necessity that any plumbing tech school that you are considering includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes should be smaller in size and every student should have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom teaching should provide a real-world perspective, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Programs differ in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will need to determine what length of program and degree or certificate will best serve your needs. Every program offers different options for certification also. Probably The ideal way to research your short list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to monitor some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the school you decide on is the right one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, the final outcome will be a new career as a professional plumber in Alabama.