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How to Find the Right Plumbing Technical School near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama plumbing contractor replacing kitchen faucetThe first step to learning to be a plumbing contractor or tradesman is finding a plumbing trade school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many vocational schools to select from, just how do you approach making certain that you enroll in the right one? Especially since there are a number of points to consider. For example, some students will commence by looking for schools that are close to their home. Once they have identified a few that are within commuting distance, they will choose the one with the cheapest tuition. Even though cost and location are of importance, they are not the sole qualifications that need to be examined. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, as well as their graduation and job placement rates. These and other qualifiers should contribute toward your final judgment when picking a plumber training school. We will address that checklist in more detail later in this post. But first, let's review 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 Tuscaloosa AL plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

  • Apprentice. The majority of Tuscaloosa 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 Tuscaloosa AL is to enroll in a plumbing technology program that will provide the comprehensive quality training needed to embark on this challenging career.

Plumbing Degree and Certificate Options

There are several educational options available near Tuscaloosa 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.

Topics to Ask Plumbing Technical Schools

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Now that you have decided to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to focus your school options. Because there are so many plumbing trade and vocational schools in the Tuscaloosa AL region, it's essential to have a checklist of qualifications that each program must satisfy. The first 2 that we discussed were location and tuition expense. And even though both qualifiers may be critical when making your selection, there are other variables that must be taken into account as well. Below is a checklist of those additional qualifications that you will need to assess before enrolling in a plumber vocational school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Many plumbing trade programs have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example electrical technology. Verify that the Tuscaloosa AL program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the plumbing training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, an additional way of confirming that a vocational 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 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 Tuscaloosa 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors 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 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment in the Tuscaloosa AL area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Many plumber training 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 reviewing have referring relationships with local Tuscaloosa AL plumbers or plumbing contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make certain that the campus 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, talk to the master plumber you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL plumbing company if they can give you some suggestions.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is in Tuscaloosa AL and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure 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 Tuscaloosa Plumbing Training School

Selecting the ideal plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to launch your new profession. As we have discussed in this article, there are many factors that you will need to assess and compare between the schools you are looking at. It's a prerequisite that any plumbing tech school that you are reviewing includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and every student should have their own equipment to train with. Classroom education should offer a real-world frame of reference, and the training program should be up-to-date and conform with industry standards. Training programs differ in duration and the kind of credential provided, so you will need to decide what length of program and degree or certificate will best fulfill your needs. Every training program offers different possibilities for certification also. Perhaps the best means 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. 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 right training, hard work and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Tuscaloosa AL.