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How to Find the Right Plumber Training School near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama plumber installing sink faucetThe initial step to becoming a plumbing tradesman or contractor is finding a plumbing trade school near Florence AL. But with numerous technical schools to select from, just how do you tackle making sure that you enroll in the right one? Especially because there are so many variables to evaluate. For example, some prospective students will commence by looking for schools that are close to their home. When they have located a few that are within commuting range, they will pick the one with the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are significant, they are not the only things that need to be examined. Also critical are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, in addition to their graduation and job placement rates. These and other qualifiers should help mold your final judgment when picking a plumber training school. We will address that checklist in more detail later in this post. But first, let's review a little bit about becoming a plumber and the instructional options that are accessible.

What is a Plumber?

Florence Alabama plumber fixing 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 Florence AL plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

  • Apprentice. The majority of Florence 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 Florence AL is to enroll in a plumbing technology program that will provide the comprehensive quality training needed to embark on this challenging career.

Plumber Degree and Certificate Programs

There are several educational options available near Florence 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.

Points to Ask Plumbing Training Schools

Florence Alabama plumbing contractor replacing hot water heater

When you have decided to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to focus your school options. Considering that there are numerous plumbing tech and trade schools in the Florence AL region, it's imperative to have a checklist of criteria that each school must satisfy. The first two that we mentioned were location and tuition expense. And even though both qualifiers may be critical when making your determination, there are other variables that need to be taken into account as well. Below is a checklist of those added qualifications that you will need to analyze before selecting a plumber trade school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Many plumbing vocational schools have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire 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 sure that the Florence AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the plumbing training course be accredited in order to be approved for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, another way of determining if a vocational school you’re considering 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 don’t know, ask the school which state agency is responsible for its licensing and then check to ensure 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 Florence 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of contacts to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs in the Florence 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 trade 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 working partnerships with local Florence AL plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the master plumber you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Florence AL plumbing contracting company if they can provide some pointers.

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

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is in Florence AL and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm 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 at night or on weekends near Florence AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

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Choose the Best Florence Plumber Trade School

Selecting the ideal plumbing training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to launch your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are many things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the training programs you are looking at. It's a necessity that any plumbing training program that you are evaluating includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be small in size and each student must have their own equipment to train with. Classroom instruction should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be current and in-line with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Each training program provides different possibilities for certification as well. Probably the best approach to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the students and instructors. Take the time to monitor a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you pick is the best one for you. With the proper training, effort and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Florence AL.