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How to Select the Right Plumbing Training School near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska plumber installing kitchen faucetThe initial step to becoming a plumbing contractor or tradesman is enrolling in a plumbing trade school near Fairbanks AK. But with numerous technical schools to select from, just how do you approach making sure that you enroll in the right one? Especially because there are so many points to consider. For instance, some potential students will begin by searching for schools that are close to their residence. When they have located some that are within commuting range, they will choose the one with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant, they are not the only things that should be examined. Also important are the reputations of the schools, their accreditation, in addition to their graduation and job placement rates. These and other qualifications should contribute toward your ultimate judgment when picking a plumber training school. We will discuss that checklist in greater detail later in this article. But first, let's review a little bit about becoming a plumber and the educational choices that are offered.

What is a Plumber?

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

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

Plumber Degree and Certificate Options

There are several educational options available near Fairbanks 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.

Things to Ask Plumbing Technical Schools

Fairbanks Alaska plumbing contractor installing hot water heater

Once you have decided to obtain a certificate, diploma or degree, you can begin to refine your school options. Because there are numerous plumbing vocational and trade schools in the Fairbanks 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 important when making your decision, there are additional factors that must be taken into account as well. Following is a checklist of those additional qualifications that you will need to analyze prior to choosing a plumber tech school.

Is the Plumbing School Accredited?  Numerous plumbing technical schools have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example electrical technology. Make sure that the Fairbanks AK school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a quality education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states require that the plumbing training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing or certification.

Is the Plumbing School Licensed?  Along with accreditation, another way of determining if a trade 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 Alaska Department of Education.  If you’re not sure, 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 Fairbanks 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of contacts to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment in the Fairbanks AK area.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Sponsored?  A large number of plumber trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of plumbing contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Fairbanks AK plumbers or plumbing specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area plumbing professional community.

Are there Modern Facilities?  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the master plumber you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Fairbanks AK plumbing company if they can give you some suggestions.

Where is the School Located?  Unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairbanks AK home. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is in Fairbanks AK and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Is the Class Schedule Convenient?  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, confirm that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Fairbanks Plumbing Tech Schools

Choose the Best Fairbanks Plumbing Trade School

Selecting the best plumber training program will undoubtedly be the most critical decision you will make to start your new career. As we have discussed in this article, there are several things that you will need to evaluate and compare between the training programs you are reviewing. It's a necessity that any plumbing tech school that you are evaluating 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 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 provided, so you will have to ascertain what length of program and certificate or degree will best satisfy your needs. Every training program provides different options for certification also. Probably the best way to research your short list of schools is to go to each campus and talk with the students and faculty. Invest some time to sit in on a few classes. Inspect the campus and facilities. Make certain that you are confident that the training program you decide on is the right one for you. With the proper training, effort and dedication, you can become a professional plumber in Fairbanks AK.