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How to Find the Best Plumber School near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama plumbing contractor replacing kitchen faucetThe initial step to learning to be a plumbing contractor or tradesman is finding a plumbing trade school near Birmingham AL. But with numerous vocational schools to select from, just how do you approach making sure that you enroll in the best one? Particularly since there are so many factors to consider. For instance, many students will begin by looking for schools that are nearby their home. Once they have identified a few that are within driving distance, they will pick the one with the least expensive tuition. Even though cost and location are important, they are not the only things that need to be examined. Also critical are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, as well as their job placement and graduation rates. These and other qualifiers should influence your ultimate decision when picking a plumbing training school. We will address that checklist in more detail later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the educational choices that are available.

Becoming a Plumber

Birmingham Alabama plumber repairing 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 Birmingham AL plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

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

Plumber Degree and Certificate Options

There are several educational options available near Birmingham 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.

Topics to Ask Plumber Trade Schools

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Now that you have made a decision to obtain a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to refine your school options. Since there are so many plumbing tech and trade schools in the Birmingham AL region, it's important to have a checklist of qualifications that each school must meet. The initial two that we discussed were location and tuition expense. And while both qualifiers may be important when making your selection, there are additional factors that need to be taken into account as well. Below is a checklist of those added qualifications that you will need to analyze prior to choosing a plumber technical school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Many plumbing trade programs have acquired 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 instance electrical technology. Make sure that the Birmingham AL school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the plumbing training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, another way of confirming that a vocational school you’re reiewing is reputable is by checking that it’s properly licensed.  Licensing is usually 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 Birmingham 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 reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, 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 confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to assist students secure apprenticeships or jobs in the Birmingham AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Numerous plumber training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Birmingham AL plumbers or plumbing companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL plumbing contractor if they can provide some suggestions.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is in Birmingham AL and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Birmingham Plumber Training Schools

Enroll in the Right Birmingham Plumber Trade School

Selecting the best plumbing trade school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are many things that you will need to examine and compare among the schools you are considering. It's a prerequisite that any plumbing training program that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student must have their own equipment to train with. Classroom education needs to offer a real-world perspective, and the training program should be current and conform with industry standards. Training programs differ in length and the type of credential offered, so you will need to decide what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Every program provides different options for certification as well. Probably the best approach to research your final list of schools is to go to each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you select is the ideal one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Birmingham AL.