How to Pick the Right Plumber Tech School near Birmingham Alabama
The first step to becoming a plumbing tradesman or contractor is locating a plumbing trade school near Birmingham AL. But with so many technical schools to pick from, just how do you go about making certain that you enroll in the best one? Especially because there are a number of variables to examine. For example, some prospective students will commence by searching for schools that are nearby their home. When they have identified some that are within commuting range, they will choose the one with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important, they are not the sole factors that should be examined. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, in addition to their job placement and graduation rates. These and additional qualifications should influence your ultimate decision when choosing a plumber trade school. We will address that checklist in more detail later in this post. But to begin with, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the educational options that are accessible.
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 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.
Plumbing Degree and Certificate OptionsThere 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
Now that you have made a decision to obtain a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to focus your training options. Because there are so many plumbing vocational and trade schools in the Birmingham AL area, it's important to have a checklist of criteria that each school must meet. The first two that we talked about were location and tuition expense. And even though both qualifiers may be crucial when making your selection, there are additional factors that must be taken into account also. Below is a checklist of those additional qualifiers that you will need to assess before choosing a plumber technical school.
Is the Plumbing School Accredited? A large number of plumbing trade programs have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example electrical technology. Make sure that the Birmingham AL school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the plumbing training program be accredited for it to qualify for certification or licensing.
Is the Plumbing School Licensed? In addition to accreditation, an additional 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 regulates 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 course. A low completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of contacts to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs in the Birmingham AL area.
Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored? Most plumber technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Birmingham AL plumbers or plumbing specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local plumbing professional community.
Are there Modern Facilities? Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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, check with the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL plumbing contracting company if they can give you some suggestions.
Where is the School Located? Unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Birmingham AL 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 fees compared to in-state residents.
Are there Smaller Classes? It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is in Birmingham AL and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Is the Class Schedule Convenient? Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Pick the Right Birmingham Plumber Trade School
Picking the best plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have discussed in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to examine and compare among the schools you are considering. It's a necessity that any plumber tech school that you are considering includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and each student should have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom education needs to provide a real-world perspective, and the curriculum should be current and conform with industry standards. Courses vary in length and the type of credential provided, so you will have to decide what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Every program provides unique possibilities for certification as well. Perhaps the best approach to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Take the time to monitor some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you choose is the right one for you. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Birmingham AL.