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How to Select the Best Plumber Technical School near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama plumber fixing kitchen sink faucetThe first step to learning to be a plumbing contractor or tradesman is locating a plumbing trade school near Oxford AL. But with so many technical schools to select from, just how do you go about making certain that you enroll in the right one? Especially since there are a number of factors to evaluate. For instance, some potential students will start by searching for schools that are close to their home. When they have found several that are within driving range, they will pick the one with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are of importance, they are not the sole qualifications that must be examined. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, along with their job placement and graduation rates. These and additional qualifiers should influence your final judgment when selecting a plumber training school. We will cover 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 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 Oxford AL plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

  • Apprentice. The majority of Oxford 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 Oxford 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 Oxford 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 Plumbing Trade Schools

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Now that you have made a decision to earn a certificate, diploma or degree, you can start to focus your training options. Since there are so many plumbing tech and trade schools in the Oxford AL area, it's imperative to have a checklist of criteria that each school must satisfy. The first two that we talked about were location and tuition expense. And even though both qualifiers may be critical when making your determination, there are additional variables that must be taken into account also. Following is a checklist of those added qualifications that you will need to research prior to enrolling in a plumber vocational school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Numerous plumbing trade schools have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance electrical technology. Confirm that the Oxford AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require that the plumbing training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  In addition to accreditation, another way of determining if a trade school you’re considering is reputable is by checking that it’s properly licensed.  Licensing is usually controlled and regulated 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 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 Oxford 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 of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train 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 list 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 validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of contacts to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs in the Oxford AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Numerous plumber technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Oxford AL plumbers or plumbing professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Oxford AL plumbing contractor 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 Oxford AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is in Oxford AL and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools 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 Oxford AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Oxford Plumbing Tech Schools

Enroll in the Best Oxford Plumbing Vocational School

Selecting the right plumbing trade school will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to start your new trade. As we have addressed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to evaluate and compare between the training programs you are considering. It's a necessity that any plumbing training program that you are examining includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and each student should have their own equipment to train with. Classroom education should offer a real-world context, and the course of study should be up-to-date and in-line with industry standards. Courses differ in duration and the type of credential offered, so you will have to decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best serve your needs. Every program offers different possibilities for certification as well. Perhaps the best means to research your final list of schools is to check out each campus and speak with the students and faculty. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the training program you select is the ideal one for you. With the proper training, effort and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Oxford AL.