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How to Select the Right Plumbing Tech School near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama plumbing contractor fixing sink faucetThe first step to becoming a plumbing contractor or tradesman is enrolling in a plumbing trade school near Birmingham AL. But with so many technical schools to pick from, just how do you undertake making certain that you enroll in the right one? Especially because there are a number of points to consider. For example, many students will begin by searching for schools that are nearby their residence. Once they have identified some that are within commuting range, they will choose the one with the least expensive tuition. Although location and cost are important, they are not the only things that should be examined. Also critical are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, along with their job placement and graduation rates. These and other qualifiers should help mold your ultimate decision when picking a plumber training school. We will talk about 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 training options that are available.

What is 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 Degree and Certificate 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.

What to Ask Plumbing Training Schools

Birmingham Alabama plumbing contractor repairing water heater

Now that you have made a decision to earn a diploma, certificate or degree, you can start to narrow down your school options. Considering that there are numerous plumbing vocational and trade schools in the Birmingham AL region, it's imperative to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must meet. The initial 2 that we discussed were location and the cost of tuition. And while both qualifiers may be crucial when making your decision, there are other variables that must be considered also. Following is a checklist of those additional qualifications that you will need to analyze prior to choosing a plumber technical school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  A large number of plumbing trade schools have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example electrical technology. Verify that the Birmingham AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the plumbing training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, another way of confirming that 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 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 training programs you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in 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 trade, but also that it has the network of contacts to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment in the Birmingham AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Many plumber trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Birmingham AL plumbers or plumbing specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the master plumber you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL plumbing contracting company if they can provide some tips.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some 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?  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

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Pick the Best Birmingham Plumbing Training School

Selecting the ideal plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new trade. As we have discussed in this article, there are many things that you will need to examine and compare among the training programs you are reviewing. It's a must that any plumber training program that you are evaluating includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be smaller in size and each student must have their own equipment to train with. Classroom education should provide a real-world perspective, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Training programs vary in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will need to determine what length of program and degree or certificate will best satisfy your needs. Every training program provides unique possibilities for certification as well. Probably the best way to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Take the time to sit in on some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you decide on is the right one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Birmingham AL.