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How to Find the Right Plumbing Trade School near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska plumbing contractor installing sink faucetThe initial step to learning to be a plumbing contractor or tradesman is finding a plumbing trade school near Anchorage AK. But with so many technical schools to select from, just how do you approach making sure that you enroll in the right one? Especially since there are so many points to examine. For example, some potential students will commence by searching for schools that are nearby their residence. Once they have identified a few that are within commuting distance, they will choose the one with the lowest tuition. Even though location and cost are important, they are not the sole things that need to be evaluated. Also important are the accreditation and reputations of the schools, along with their graduation and job placement rates. These and additional qualifiers should help mold your ultimate decision when choosing a plumbing trade school. We will cover that checklist in greater detail later in this article. But to begin with, let's talk a little bit about becoming a plumber and the training choices that are offered.

Becoming a Plumber

Anchorage Alaska plumber adjusting water 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 Options

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 plumbing contractor replacing water heater

Now that you have decided to obtain a diploma, certificate or degree, you can start to narrow down your training options. Because there are numerous plumbing tech and trade schools in the Anchorage AK region, it's essential to have a checklist of qualifications that each school must meet. The first 2 that we talked about were location and tuition expense. And although both qualifiers may be crucial when making your determination, there are other factors that must be considered also. Below is a checklist of those additional qualifiers that you will need to research before selecting a plumber technical school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  A large number of plumbing trade programs have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as electrical technology. Make certain that the Anchorage AK school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states require that the plumbing training program be accredited in order to qualify for certification or licensing.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  In addition to accreditation, another way of determining if a vocational 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 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of contacts to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment in the Anchorage AK area.

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

Are there Modern Facilities?  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to 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 able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Anchorage AK home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Are there Smaller Classes?  It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is in Anchorage AK and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Anchorage AK, check that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Anchorage Plumber Training Schools

Enroll in the Best Anchorage Plumbing Trade School

Selecting the ideal plumbing training program will probably be the most critical decision you will make to begin your new career. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of factors that you will need to assess and compare among the schools you are considering. It's a necessity that any plumber tech school that you are evaluating includes a considerable amount of hands-on training. Classes should be small in size and each student should have their personal equipment to train with. Classroom teaching needs to provide a real-world frame of reference, and the curriculum should be current and in-line with industry standards. Training 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 satisfy your needs. Every program offers unique options for certification also. Probably the best means to research your short list of schools is to visit each campus and talk with the faculty and students. Take the time to sit in on a few classes. Tour the campus and facilities. Make sure that you are confident that the school you decide on is the right one for you. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can become a professional plumber in Anchorage AK.