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How to Select the Best Plumber Trade School near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama plumbing contractor installing kitchen sink faucetThe first step to becoming a plumbing tradesman or contractor is finding a plumbing trade school near Opelika AL. But with numerous technical schools to select from, just how do you undertake making sure that you enroll in the best one? Particularly since there are a number of points to evaluate. For instance, some students will start by looking for schools that are nearby their residence. Once they have identified some that are within commuting distance, they will choose the one with the most affordable tuition. Even though location and cost are important, they are not the sole things that must be examined. Also important are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, in addition to their graduation and job placement rates. These and additional qualifiers should help mold your final judgment when picking a plumbing training school. We will address 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 choices that are accessible.

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 Opelika AL plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

  • Apprentice. The majority of Opelika 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 Opelika 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 Options

There are several educational options available near Opelika 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 Vocational Schools

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Once you have decided to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to focus your school options. Because there are numerous plumbing tech and trade schools in the Opelika AL region, it's essential to have a checklist of criteria that each program must satisfy. The initial 2 that we mentioned were location and the cost of tuition. And while both qualifiers may be crucial when making your selection, there are additional variables that need to be taken into account as well. Following is a checklist of those additional qualifiers that you will need to assess prior to choosing a plumber vocational school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Many plumbing vocational schools have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example electrical technology. Make certain that the Opelika AL school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the plumbing training program be accredited in order to qualify for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, an additional way of determining if a vocational school you’re considering 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 don’t know, 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 Opelika 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 course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers 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 may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of contacts to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs in the Opelika AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  A large number of plumber vocational programs are taught along 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 businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Opelika AL plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, consult with the master plumber you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Opelika AL plumbing company if they can provide some pointers.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's desirable 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 observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is in Opelika AL and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Make sure 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 Opelika AL, verify that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Opelika Plumbing Tech Schools

Pick the Best Opelika Plumber Trade School

Picking the right plumbing training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have discussed in this article, there are several things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the schools you are considering. It's a prerequisite that any plumber training that you are examining includes a good deal of hands-on instruction. Classes need to be smaller in size and each student should have their own equipment to train with. Classroom teaching needs to offer a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be current and conform with industry standards. Programs vary in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best fulfill your needs. Each program provides different possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best way to research your short list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the teachers and students. Take the time to sit in on some classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you pick is the right one for you. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Opelika AL.