How to Choose the Best Plumbing Trade School near Florence Alabama
The initial step to becoming a plumbing contractor or tradesman is finding a plumbing trade school near Florence AL. But with so many vocational schools to choose from, just how do you approach making sure that you enroll in the best one? Especially since there are so many factors to evaluate. For instance, many prospective students will start by searching for schools that are nearby their home. When they have found several that are within driving distance, they will select the one with the least expensive tuition. Even though cost and location are important, they are not the sole things that must be evaluated. Also critical are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, in addition to their job placement and graduation rates. These and additional qualifications should help mold your final judgment when selecting a plumber trade school. We will discuss that checklist in more detail later in this article. But to begin with, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the instructional options that are available.
Becoming 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 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 Certificate and Degree OptionsThere 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 Plumbing Technical Schools
Now that you have made a decision to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to narrow down your training options. Considering that there are so many plumbing trade and vocational schools in the Florence AL region, it's essential to have a checklist of criteria that each school must satisfy. The initial 2 that we talked about were location and the cost of tuition. And even though both qualifiers may be critical when making your determination, there are other factors that must be considered also. Following is a checklist of those added qualifications that you will need to analyze prior to selecting a plumber tech school.
Is the Plumbing School Accredited? Many plumbing technical schools have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example electrical technology. Make sure that the Florence AL school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states require that the plumbing training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing or certification.
Is the Plumbing School Licensed? In addition to accreditation, another 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 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 program. A lower completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment in the Florence AL area.
Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored? Many plumber training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Florence AL plumbers or plumbing specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional plumbing professional community.
Are there Modern Facilities? Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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 regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Florence AL plumbing contractor if they can give you some tips.
Where is the School Located? Unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Florence AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may 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 monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is in Florence AL and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Is the Class Schedule Convenient? Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Florence AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Pick the Right Florence Plumbing Training School
Choosing the best plumbing trade school will probably be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new trade. As we have discussed in this article, there are several things that you will need to examine and compare between the schools you are looking at. It's a prerequisite that any plumber training program that you are reviewing includes a considerable amount of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student should have their own equipment to train with. Classroom instruction should offer a real-world context, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Courses differ in length and the kind of credential offered, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and credential will best satisfy your needs. Each training program offers different options for certification as well. Perhaps the best means to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to sit in on some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you pick is the best one for you. With the right training, effort and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Florence AL.