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How to Enroll in the Best Plumbing School near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama plumber replacing sink faucetThe initial step to learning to be a plumbing tradesman or contractor is locating a plumbing trade school near Athens AL. But with so many technical schools to pick from, just how do you tackle making sure that you enroll in the best one? Particularly since there are a number of factors to consider. For instance, many prospective students will commence by searching for schools that are close to their home. Once they have found several that are within commuting range, they will pick the one with the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are important, they are not the only things that need to be considered. Also important are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, as well as their job placement and graduation rates. These and other qualifications should contribute toward your final judgment when picking a plumbing training school. We will address that checklist in more detail later in this article. But to begin with, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the instructional options that are offered.

What is a Plumber?

Athens Alabama plumbing contractor adjusting sink pipe

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 local Athens AL plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

  • Apprentice. The majority of Athens AL 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 Athens AL is to enroll in a plumbing technology program that will provide the comprehensive quality training needed to embark on this challenging career.

Plumber Certificate and Degree Programs

There are several educational options available near Athens AL 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 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.

What to Ask Plumber Tech Schools

Athens Alabama plumber replacing hot water heater

When you have decided to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to narrow down your school options. Because there are so many plumbing trade and vocational schools in the Athens AL area, it's important to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must meet. The first 2 that we talked about were location and the cost of tuition. And even though both qualifiers may be critical when making your selection, there are other variables that need to be taken into account as well. Below is a checklist of those added qualifiers that you will need to research before choosing a plumber tech school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  A large number of plumbing trade schools have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as electrical technology. Make sure that the Athens AL school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require that the plumbing training course be accredited for it to be approved for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, an additional way of confirming that 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 Alabama Department of Education.  If you’re not sure, 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 Athens AL 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 of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of contacts to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment in the Athens AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Numerous plumber trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Athens AL plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already 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 Athens AL plumbing contracting company if they can provide some suggestions.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Athens AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor 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 some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is in Athens AL and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Athens AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Athens Plumbing Vocational Schools

Enroll in the Right Athens Plumber Vocational School

Choosing the best plumbing trade school will probably be the most important decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have covered in this article, there are many things that you will need to examine and compare among the schools you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any plumbing tech school that you are examining includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student must have their own equipment to train with. Classroom education should offer a real-world context, and the training program should be current and in-line with industry standards. Programs differ in length and the type of credential provided, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Every program offers different options for certification also. Probably the best approach to research your final list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to attend some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you select is the best one for you. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Athens AL.