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How to Pick the Right Plumbing Training School near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama plumber fixing kitchen faucetThe initial step to learning to be a plumbing contractor or tradesman is finding a plumbing trade school near Birmingham AL. But with so many technical schools to choose from, just how do you tackle making sure that you enroll in the ideal one? Especially because there are so many variables to evaluate. For example, many potential students will commence by searching for schools that are close to their residence. Once they have found several that are within driving range, they will decide on the one with the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are significant, they are not the only factors that need to be evaluated. Also critical are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, as well as their job placement and graduation rates. These and additional qualifiers should contribute toward your ultimate decision when picking a plumbing trade school. We will talk about that checklist in greater detail later in this article. But first, let's review a little bit about becoming a plumber and the instructional choices that are offered.

What is a Plumber?

Birmingham Alabama plumber 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 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 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.

Things to Ask Plumber Vocational Schools

Birmingham Alabama plumbing contractor installing hot water heater

Once you have decided to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to refine your training options. Considering that there are so many plumbing tech and trade schools in the Birmingham AL region, it's essential to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must satisfy. The initial two that we discussed were location and the cost of tuition. And although both qualifiers may be critical when making your selection, there are additional factors that need to be taken into account also. Below is a checklist of those added qualifiers that you will need to assess prior to choosing a plumber vocational school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  A large number of plumbing technical schools have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance electrical technology. Make certain that the Birmingham AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the plumbing training course be accredited for it to be approved for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  In addition to accreditation, an additional way of determining if a vocational school you’re reiewing is reputable is by making sure that it’s properly licensed.  Licensing is usually 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 schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list 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 confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment in the Birmingham AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Many plumber vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing contractors or labor 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 rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the master plumber you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Birmingham AL plumbing contracting company if they can give you some suggestions.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's desirable that you get as much individualized 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 big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is in Birmingham AL and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Find Out More About Birmingham Plumbing Trade Schools

Choose the Right Birmingham Plumbing Training School

Picking the ideal plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to start your new profession. As we have discussed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare among the schools you are considering. It's a must that any plumber 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 personal equipment to train with. Classroom instruction should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the course of study should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Training programs differ in length and the type of credential offered, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and credential will best serve your needs. Each training program provides unique possibilities for certification as well. Probably the best way to research your short 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 right one for you. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Birmingham AL.