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How to Choose the Right Plumber Tech School near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama plumber installing kitchen sink faucetThe first step to becoming a plumbing tradesman or contractor is finding a plumbing trade school near Florence AL. But with numerous technical schools to pick from, just how do you tackle making certain that you enroll in the ideal one? Especially because there are so many factors to evaluate. For example, some students will begin by looking for schools that are close to their home. Once they have located several that are within driving distance, they will select the one with the most affordable tuition. Even though cost and location are of importance, they are not the sole factors that need to be examined. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, in addition to their job placement and graduation rates. These and other qualifications should influence your ultimate decision when choosing a plumbing trade school. We will cover that checklist in more detail later in this post. But to begin with, let's review a little bit about becoming a plumber and the instructional choices that are available.

What is a Plumber?

Florence 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 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.

Plumbing Certificate and Degree Options

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.

What to Ask Plumber Tech Schools

Florence Alabama plumbing contractor replacing hot water heater

When you have made a decision to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can start to focus your training options. Since 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 meet. The first 2 that we mentioned were location and the cost of tuition. And although both qualifiers may be critical when making your decision, there are other variables that must be considered as well. Below is a checklist of those added qualifications that you will need to assess prior to choosing a plumber vocational school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  A large number of plumbing trade programs have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance electrical technology. Make sure that the Florence AL program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the plumbing training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, an additional way of determining if a trade school you’re considering 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 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 training programs you are looking at 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 signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent 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 broader directory of graduates, which may 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 help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs in the Florence AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Numerous plumber vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Florence AL plumbers or plumbing companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the master plumber you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Florence AL plumbing company if they can give you some suggestions.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Florence AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might 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 bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is in Florence 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 handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Florence AL, check that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

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Choose the Best Florence Plumbing Vocational School

Choosing the best plumbing trade school will probably be the most important decision you will make to launch your new trade. As we have discussed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are reviewing. It's a must that any plumber training that you are evaluating includes a lot of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and every student must have their own equipment to train with. Classroom education needs to provide a real-world context, and the course of study should be current and in-line with industry standards. Courses differ in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will need to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Each program offers different possibilities for certification as well. Perhaps the best way to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the students and instructors. Invest some time to sit in on some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you choose is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Florence AL.