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How to Choose the Best Plumber Training School near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama plumber replacing kitchen sink faucetThe initial step to becoming a plumbing tradesman or contractor is enrolling in a plumbing trade school near Northport AL. But with numerous technical schools to choose from, just how do you go about making sure that you enroll in the best one? Especially since there are a number of points to examine. For example, many prospective students will begin by searching for schools that are close to their home. Once they have located some that are within commuting distance, they will select the one with the least expensive tuition. Although location and cost are important, they are not the sole qualifications that need to be considered. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, as well as their graduation and job placement rates. These and additional qualifiers should contribute toward your final judgment when selecting a plumbing training 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 training options that are available.

What is 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 Certificate and Degree Options

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.

Questions to Ask Plumbing Tech Schools

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Now that you have decided to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to refine your training options. Since there are so many plumbing trade and vocational schools in the Northport AL region, it's essential to have a checklist of qualifications that each school must meet. The initial 2 that we discussed were location and tuition expense. And even though both qualifiers may be crucial when making your decision, there are additional factors that must be taken into account as well. Below is a checklist of those added qualifiers that you will need to research before selecting a plumber vocational school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Numerous plumbing trade schools have received 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. Make sure that the Northport AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate that the plumbing training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  In addition to accreditation, an additional way of determining if a trade school you’re reiewing is reputable is by checking that it’s properly licensed.  Licensing is typically controlled and regulated 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 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 schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may 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 also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment in the Northport AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Many plumber trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Northport AL plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Northport AL plumbing contractor if they can provide some tips.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Northport AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is in Northport AL and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Northport AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

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Enroll in the Right Northport Plumber Training School

Picking the best plumber trade school will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have discussed in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are reviewing. It's a prerequisite that any plumber training that you are reviewing includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and every student must have their own equipment to train with. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Courses differ 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 program provides unique possibilities for certification also. Probably the best means to research your final list of schools is to visit each campus and speak with the students and faculty. Invest some time to sit in on some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the program you decide on is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, effort and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Northport AL.