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How to Find the Right Plumbing School near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama plumbing contractor replacing kitchen sink faucetThe initial step to becoming a plumbing contractor or tradesman is finding a plumbing trade school near Birmingham AL. But with numerous technical schools to pick from, just how do you go about making certain that you enroll in the right one? Especially since there are a number of variables to examine. For example, many potential students will start by looking for schools that are nearby their residence. After they have found a few that are within commuting range, they will decide on the one with the least expensive tuition. While cost and location are of importance, they are not the only qualifications that must be considered. Also important are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, as well as their job placement and graduation rates. These and additional qualifiers should influence your ultimate judgment when choosing a plumber training school. We will talk about 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 training choices that are offered.

Becoming a Plumber

Birmingham Alabama plumber repairing water 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.

Plumbing Certificate and Degree Programs

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.

Things to Ask Plumbing Technical Schools

Birmingham Alabama plumber installing water heater

Once you have made a decision to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to narrow down your school options. Because there are numerous plumbing tech and trade schools in the Birmingham AL area, it's important to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must meet. The initial 2 that we mentioned were location and the cost of tuition. And although both qualifiers may be critical when making your determination, there are other variables that must be considered as well. Following is a checklist of those added qualifiers that you will need to analyze before enrolling in a plumber technical school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Many plumbing technical schools have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as electrical technology. Make certain that the Birmingham AL program 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 superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the plumbing training course be accredited in order to qualify for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, an additional way of determining if a trade school you’re reiewing 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 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 training programs you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher 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 utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs in the Birmingham AL area.

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

Are there Modern Facilities?  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the master plumber you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL plumbing company if they can give you some tips.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Birmingham AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is in Birmingham AL and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, check that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Birmingham Plumbing Tech Schools

Pick the Best Birmingham Plumber Trade School

Choosing the right plumbing training program will probably be the most important decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have discussed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to examine and compare among the training programs you are reviewing. It's a prerequisite that any plumbing tech school that you are reviewing includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be small in size and every student should have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom instruction should provide a real-world perspective, and the course of study should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Courses vary in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will have to decide what length of program and credential will best satisfy your needs. Every program provides different possibilities for certification as well. Probably The ideal means to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Take the time to sit in on a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you pick is the best one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Birmingham AL.