How to Select the Best Plumbing Training near Birmingham Alabama
The first step to becoming a plumbing contractor or tradesman is enrolling in a plumbing trade school near Birmingham AL. But with so many vocational schools to pick from, just how do you go about making sure that you enroll in the ideal one? Particularly because there are a number of points to evaluate. For example, many prospective students will begin by searching for schools that are close to their home. When they have identified a few that are within commuting distance, they will choose the one with the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are important, they are not the sole things that must be considered. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, as well as their graduation and job placement rates. These and additional qualifiers should influence your ultimate judgment when picking a plumbing trade school. We will cover that checklist in greater detail later in this article. But first, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the training choices that are offered.
What is 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 Certificate and Degree ProgramsThere 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.
Questions to Ask Plumber Technical Schools
Once you have made a decision to obtain a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to narrow down your training options. Since there are numerous plumbing vocational and trade schools in the Birmingham AL region, it's important to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must meet. The initial 2 that we talked about were location and tuition expense. And while both qualifiers may be important when making your decision, there are additional variables that must be taken into account as well. Below is a checklist of those added qualifiers that you will need to assess before choosing a plumber technical school.
Is the Plumbing School Accredited? A large number of plumbing vocational programs 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 pertains to an individual program, for example electrical technology. Verify that the Birmingham AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate 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 trade school you’re reiewing is reputable is by making sure 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 of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs in the Birmingham AL area.
Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored? A large number of plumber vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Birmingham AL plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area plumbing professional community.
Are there Modern Facilities? Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained 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, consult 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 give you some pointers.
Where is the School Located? Unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to 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 increased 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 challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is in Birmingham AL and what certifications or degrees they hold.
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 go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
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Pick the Best Birmingham Plumbing Trade School
Selecting the ideal plumbing trade school will probably be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of things that you will need to assess and compare between the schools you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any plumber tech school that you are reviewing includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be small in size and each student must have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom teaching should provide a real-world perspective, and the course of study should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Programs vary in duration and the kind of credential offered, so you will have to determine what length of program and degree or certificate will best fulfill your needs. Every training program provides different possibilities for certification as well. Probably the best approach to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the teachers and students. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the school you pick is the right one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Birmingham AL.