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How to Select the Best Plumber Vocational School near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama plumbing contractor fixing sink faucetThe first step to becoming a plumbing contractor or tradesman is enrolling in a plumbing trade school near Florence AL. But with numerous technical schools to choose from, just how do you approach making sure that you enroll in the ideal one? Particularly since there are so many points to consider. For example, many prospective students will start by searching for schools that are nearby their home. Once they have found a few that are within commuting distance, they will decide on the one with the least expensive tuition. While cost and location are significant, they are not the only factors that should be evaluated. Also critical are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, along with their job placement and graduation rates. These and other qualifications should help mold your final decision when choosing a plumbing training school. We will talk about that checklist in greater detail later in this post. But first, let's review a little bit about becoming a plumber and the educational choices that are available.

What is a Plumber?

Florence Alabama plumber repairing 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 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 Plumber Trade Schools

Florence Alabama plumbing contractor repairing hot water heater

When you have decided to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can start to narrow down your training options. Because there are so many plumbing vocational and trade schools in the Florence AL region, it's imperative to have a checklist of criteria that each program must satisfy. The first two that we mentioned were location and the cost of tuition. And even though both qualifiers may be critical when making your determination, there are other variables that must be taken into account as well. Following is a checklist of those additional qualifications that you will need to research prior to selecting a plumber technical school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Many plumbing trade programs have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as electrical technology. Make sure that the Florence AL school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate that the plumbing training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, an additional way of confirming that a vocational school you’re considering is reputable is by making sure that it’s properly licensed.  Licensing is typically regulated and controlled 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 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 training programs you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of contacts to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment in the Florence AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Numerous plumber trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Florence AL plumbers or plumbing professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the master plumber you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Florence AL plumbing contractor if they can give you some pointers.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are able 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, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

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

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Florence AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Florence Plumbing Tech Schools

Choose the Best Florence Plumbing Vocational School

Choosing the best plumber trade school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new trade. As we have covered in this article, there are many things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are reviewing. It's a prerequisite that any plumbing training program that you are considering includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes should be small in size and each student must have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom instruction 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 decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best serve your needs. Each training program provides unique possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best approach to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the students and instructors. Take the time to monitor some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the program you decide on is the best one for you. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Florence AL.