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How to Pick the Best Plumber Course near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama plumber installing kitchen faucetThe first step to becoming a plumbing tradesman or contractor is finding a plumbing trade school near Northport AL. But with numerous technical schools to select from, just how do you go about making sure that you enroll in the ideal one? Especially because there are a number of points to evaluate. For instance, some prospective students will begin by looking for schools that are close to their residence. When they have identified several that are within driving range, they will select the one with the cheapest tuition. Even though location and cost are important, they are not the sole things that should be evaluated. Also important are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, along with their job placement and graduation rates. These and other qualifications should contribute toward your ultimate decision when choosing a plumber training school. We will address that checklist in more detail later in this post. But first, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the educational options that are available.

What is a Plumber?

Northport 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 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.

Plumbing Certificate and Degree 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.

Things to Ask Plumber Trade Schools

Northport Alabama plumber installing hot water heater

Now that you have made a decision to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to refine your training options. Considering that there are so many plumbing trade and vocational schools in the Northport AL region, it's important to have a checklist of qualifications that each school must satisfy. The initial two that we mentioned were location and tuition expense. And while both qualifiers may be important when making your determination, there are other variables that must be taken into account also. Following is a checklist of those added qualifiers that you will need to assess prior to choosing a plumber tech school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Many plumbing trade programs have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as electrical technology. Verify that the Northport AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the plumbing training program be accredited for it to qualify for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  In addition to accreditation, another way of determining if a vocational school you’re reiewing is reputable is by checking that it’s properly licensed.  Licensing is usually regulated and controlled 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 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 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 reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean 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 a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of contacts to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment in the Northport AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Most plumber technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Northport AL plumbers or plumbing companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the master plumber you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Northport AL plumbing contractor if they can give you some pointers.

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

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out 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 programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Northport AL, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Northport Plumbing Training Schools

Choose the Best Northport Plumbing Training School

Picking the right plumbing trade school will probably be the most critical decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have covered in this article, there are several things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are looking at. It's a necessity that any plumbing training program that you are examining includes a lot of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and each student should have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom teaching needs to offer a real-world context, and the training program should be current and in-line with industry standards. Programs vary in duration and the type of credential provided, so you will need to decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best serve your needs. Every training program provides different options for certification also. Perhaps the best approach to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and talk with the teachers and students. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the program you select is the ideal one for you. With the right training, effort and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Northport AL.