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How to Enroll in the Best Plumbing Training near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama plumber fixing kitchen sink faucetThe initial step to learning to be a plumbing tradesman or contractor is locating a plumbing trade school near Northport AL. But with numerous technical schools to pick from, just how do you go about making certain that you enroll in the right one? Especially since there are so many variables to examine. For instance, some students will begin by looking for schools that are nearby their home. After they have found a few that are within driving distance, they will choose the one with the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are important, they are not the only things that must be evaluated. Also critical are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, as well as their graduation and job placement rates. These and other qualifications should influence your ultimate judgment when picking a plumbing training school. We will discuss that checklist in more detail later in this article. But to begin with, let's review a little bit about becoming a plumber and the instructional 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 Northport AL plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

  • Apprentice. The majority of Northport 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 Northport 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 Northport 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

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When you have decided to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to narrow down your training options. Since there are numerous plumbing trade and vocational schools in the Northport AL area, it's essential to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must meet. The initial two that we talked about were location and tuition expense. And even though both qualifiers may be critical when making your selection, there are additional factors that must be taken into account as well. Below is a checklist of those additional qualifiers that you will need to research before enrolling in a plumber tech school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Numerous plumbing trade programs have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as electrical technology. Verify that the Northport AL program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the plumbing training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, an additional way of confirming that a trade school you’re considering is reputable is by checking 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 is responsible for 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 Northport 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment in the Northport AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Numerous plumber training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Northport AL plumbers or plumbing companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Northport AL plumbing contracting 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 Northport AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher 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 bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is in Northport AL and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Northport AL, confirm that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

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Pick the Right Northport Plumbing Trade School

Choosing the best plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to start your new career. As we have covered in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare among the training programs you are considering. It's a necessity that any plumbing training program that you are considering includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and every student should have their own equipment to train with. Classroom instruction needs to provide a real-world frame of reference, and the curriculum should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Courses differ in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will have to decide what length of program and credential will best fulfill your needs. Each program provides unique possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best approach to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and speak with the faculty and students. Invest some time to monitor a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the program you pick is the best one for you. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Northport AL.