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How to Choose the Best Plumbing Trade School near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska plumber fixing kitchen sink faucetThe first step to learning to be a plumbing tradesman or contractor is finding a plumbing trade school near Anchorage AK. But with so many vocational schools to choose from, just how do you go about making sure that you enroll in the right one? Particularly since there are so many factors to evaluate. For example, some prospective students will begin by searching for schools that are close to their home. When they have found some that are within driving distance, they will choose the one with the lowest tuition. While location and cost are important, they are not the sole factors that need to be examined. Also critical are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, in addition to their job placement and graduation rates. These and additional qualifiers should help mold your final decision when selecting a plumbing trade school. We will address 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 accessible.

Becoming a Plumber

Anchorage Alaska plumbing contractor adjusting 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 Anchorage AK plumber will typically advance through three phases during their professional career.

  • Apprentice. The majority of Anchorage AK 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 Anchorage AK 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 Anchorage AK 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 Plumber Technical Schools

Anchorage Alaska plumber installing hot water heater

When you have made a decision to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can begin to narrow down your training options. Because there are numerous plumbing trade and vocational schools in the Anchorage AK area, it's imperative to have a checklist of criteria that each school must satisfy. The first two that we mentioned were location and the cost of tuition. And although both qualifiers may be crucial when making your decision, there are additional factors that need to be taken into account as well. Following is a checklist of those additional qualifications that you will need to analyze before enrolling in a plumber technical school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Numerous plumbing technical programs have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example electrical technology. Confirm that the Anchorage AK school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the plumbing training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  In addition to accreditation, another way of determining if 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 Alaska Department of Education.  If you don’t know, 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 Anchorage AK 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also suggest that the teachers 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 more extensive directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of contacts to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs in the Anchorage AK area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  Most plumber training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of plumbing contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Anchorage AK plumbers or plumbing companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the master plumber you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Anchorage AK plumbing contracting company if they can give you some tips.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Anchorage AK home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important 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 couple 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 comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is in Anchorage AK and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Anchorage AK, check that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Find Out More About Anchorage Plumber Trade Schools

Pick the Right Anchorage Plumbing Trade School

Choosing the ideal plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most important decision you will make to launch your new trade. As we have covered in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to examine and compare between the schools you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any plumbing training that you are considering includes a good deal of hands-on training. Classes need to be small in size and each student must have their own equipment to train with. Classroom instruction needs to provide a real-world perspective, and the course of study should be current and conform with industry standards. Programs vary in duration and the kind of credential offered, so you will have to determine what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Each training program provides unique options for certification as well. Perhaps The ideal approach to research your final list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the students and instructors. Invest some time to monitor some classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you decide on is the best one for you. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Anchorage AK.