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How to Find the Right Plumber Training near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama plumber fixing sink 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 vocational schools to select from, just how do you tackle making sure that you enroll in the right one? Particularly since there are a number of variables to evaluate. For instance, some potential students will commence by looking for schools that are close to their residence. After they have identified several that are within commuting range, they will pick the one with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are of importance, they are not the only factors that should be evaluated. Also critical are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, as well as their graduation and job placement rates. These and other qualifiers should influence your final judgment when choosing a plumber training school. We will cover that checklist in more detail later in this post. But first, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the training choices that are offered.

Becoming a Plumber

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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.

What to Ask Plumber Technical Schools

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Once you have made a decision to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to focus your training options. Since there are so many plumbing vocational and trade schools in the Birmingham AL area, it's important to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must satisfy. The first two that we discussed were location and tuition expense. And even though both qualifiers may be important when making your decision, there are other factors that need to be considered as well. Following is a checklist of those additional qualifications that you will need to analyze prior to choosing a plumber tech school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  A large number of plumbing technical programs have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as electrical technology. Verify that the Birmingham AL program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the plumbing training course be accredited in order to qualify for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, another way of determining if a trade school you’re reiewing is reputable is by making sure that it’s properly licensed.  Licensing is typically controlled and regulated by state agencies, such as the Alabama Department of Education.  If you don’t know, 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 looking at 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 signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may produce 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 an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs in the Birmingham AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  A large number of plumber training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Birmingham AL plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Birmingham AL plumbing contracting company if they can provide some pointers.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is in Birmingham AL and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing 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, verify that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Birmingham Plumbing Training Schools

Choose the Best Birmingham Plumbing Training School

Choosing the best plumbing training program will probably be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new profession. As we have covered in this article, there are a number of things that you will need to evaluate and compare among the schools you are looking at. It's a necessity that any plumber training program that you are evaluating includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes should be smaller in size and each student should have their own equipment to train with. Classroom education needs to offer a real-world context, and the training program should be current and in-line with industry standards. Courses vary in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will need to decide what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Each program offers different options for certification also. Perhaps the best approach to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the faculty and students. Take the time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you select is the right one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Birmingham AL.