How to Choose a Plumbing Technical School in Alaska
The initial step to becoming a plumbing tradesman or contractor is locating a plumbing trade school in Alaska. But with numerous technical schools to choose from, just how do you go about making certain that you enroll in the best one? Especially because there are so many factors to consider. For example, many prospective students will commence by searching for schools that are close to their home. Once they have located some that are within commuting range, they will decide on the one with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are of importance, they are not the only things that must be considered. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, in addition to their graduation and job placement rates. These and additional qualifiers should influence your ultimate decision when selecting a plumbing training school. We will cover that checklist in more detail later in this article. But first, let’s talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the instructional options 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 Alaska 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 Alaska 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 Alaska 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.
Questions to Ask Plumbing Training Schools
Once you have made a decision to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to narrow down your school options. Since there are so many Alaska plumbing tech and trade schools in your area, it’s imperative to have a checklist of criteria that each school must satisfy. The first 2 that we discussed were location and the cost of tuition. And although both qualifiers may be important when making your selection, there are other factors that need to be considered as well. Following is a checklist of those added qualifications that you will need to research before choosing a plumber trade school.
Is the Plumbing School Accredited? Numerous plumbing technical programs have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school’s programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example plumbing technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited Alaska programs. Additionally, a number of states require that the plumbing training course be accredited in order to qualify for certification or licensing.
Is the Plumbing School Licensed? In addition to accreditation, another way of determining if a trade school you’re considering is reputable is by checking that it’s properly licensed. Licensing is typically controlled and regulated by state agencies, such as the Alaska Department of Education. If you don’t know, ask the school which state agency is responsible for its licensing and then check to ensure 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 Alaska 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It’s similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Alaska contacts to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored? A large number of plumber vocational programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating Alaska technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with regional plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on 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 school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Alaska plumbing company if they can give you some suggestions.
Where is the School Located? Unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Alaska home. Remember that if you decide to attend 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 desirable that you receive as much individualized training 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 big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is in Alaska and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Is the Class Schedule Convenient? Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends in Alaska, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those choices. Also, if you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Plumbing Trade School in Alaska
Picking the ideal plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to launch your new trade. As we have discussed in this article, there are several things that you will need to assess and compare among the schools you are considering. It’s a prerequisite that any plumbing training that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be small in size and every student must have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom instruction should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Programs vary in length and the type of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and certificate or degree will best serve your needs. Every training program offers unique options for certification also. Probably the best means to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Take the time to attend a few 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 proper training, effort and dedication, the end result will be a new trade as a professional plumber in Alaska.