If you are considering a career in plumbing, you have already made the important decision to enter the skilled trades. Now you have another choice: a traditional plumbing school with hands-on learning and instructors or online plumbing courses. A lot of students are embracing online learning, and for great reasons. Taking classes online is convenient and sometimes less expensive, but before you make that choice, there are some important things to know about learning a trade online versus in a traditional classroom.
Going to plumbing school should be an exciting experience. You will be learning a new trade with a number of new skills and you will be setting out on the path to a meaningful career building, fixing, and really helping people.
There are a lot of choices for plumbing school and you have a lot of factors to consider. For instance, you have to think about how much you can afford, about campus location, and about your job prospects once you finish the coursework.
One of your biggest choices will be between a real, brick-and-mortar plumbing school and an online learning program. Each one has its benefits and its downsides, but as you get into the details you will be able to make the right choice for your needs.
Pros and Cons of Traditional Plumbing School
Maybe you thought that once you were done with high school that was it for you and traditional school. Before you dismiss the idea of going back, you should know that the plumbing school isn’t really traditional at all. In a plumbing diploma program, you do more hands-on learning than book learning, and it can take you as little time as nine months. You also have the opportunity to plan a flexible course schedule that works around the rest of your life. Here are some of the other pros of going with a real trade school for plumbing:
- Experienced instructors. In a traditional plumbing course, you get instructors who are actually plumbers. They aren’t just teaching you from a textbook; they actually have years of experience and can share that knowledge with you.
- Interact with instructors. You also get face-to-face interactions during every class period with those great instructors. You can ask questions, ask for clarifications and demonstrations, and learn from someone who is there, in the room, to work with you.
- Structured learning. If studying has never been your strong suit, you are far from alone. With traditional coursework, you get a structure that helps guide you through what you need to learn, instead of needing to rely on your own motivation and pacing.
- Hands-on learning. With a career that is all about working with your hands and with tools and pipes, it just makes sense that learning in a classroom is more effective. With a traditional class you get to actually try the skills that you learn.
- The classes are small. In a real, plumbing school setting you will learn in classrooms that are small. You get individualized attention from instructors and can learn from and work with a manageable group of fellow students.
There are a lot of good reasons to choose a traditional school for plumbing, but there are some downsides too. Not one program is a perfect fit for everyone.
- You must be on campus. With a traditional program, you have to be physically on campus and in the classroom for your coursework. Although there is a lot of flexibility in scheduling, once you pick a course time, you have to be there.
- You may have to commute or relocate. Depending on your location and your chosen campus, getting there may involve a commute, which takes time and money.
- Interaction is important. If you prefer to study and learn alone, you may not enjoy the setting of a traditional classroom. You may have to work with other students to complete projects.
Pros and Cons of Online Plumbing Trade Schools
Your other choice for a plumbing school is to go with an online program. With improvements in technology, learning online has been growing. From K-12 programs to undergraduate degrees, and even skilled trade programs, there are many online courses available for all kinds of learners. Some of the pros of going online include:
- Greater flexibility and convenience. There is no denying that online education gives you the most flexibility. You can choose when to study, read, and even take exams.
- Records and grades always accessible online. Online courses generally have to grade down to a science and you get your results quickly and conveniently.
- Don’t live anywhere near a plumbing school campus? No problem. One great thing about online learning is that it makes education more accessible.
Online learning may be accessible, convenient, and flexible, but there are many cons as well, especially if you are interested in plumbing training courses:
- Online learning can be boring. According to research, students often drop out of online courses because of boredom. They left the online classes because they lacked the engaging experience that you get in a traditional classroom.
- You may need additional training. With online courses instead of a traditional plumbing school, you may be able to pass a certification test, but most states also require a certain amount of hands-on experience for a plumber to be licensed. Most plumbers get training through an apprenticeship and if you started with online training, you may be behind in that experience.
- You miss out on the hands-on learning of plumbing school. With online courses, you may be able to see video or podcast demonstrations of the skills you’re learning, but you won’t have the opportunity to actually try them for yourself.
- Minimal interaction with other students. Interacting, discussing, and collaborating with other students can be an important part of learning and something you may miss out on in an online setting.
- Intrinsic motivation required. Without an instructor in front of you with a paced and guided course, you will have to rely on your own sense of motivation to get the work done, to study, and to pass your classes.
What Students Think about Online Learning
A lot of schools embrace online learning because it reaches more students and is cost-effective, but what do students think about it? Many love the convenience and self-pacing, but you might be surprised to find out that online education, especially for something like plumbing school, is not as popular as you may have thought.
According to a study reported in 2013, many students pursuing higher education prefer traditional classes with face-to-face interactions with online classes. The study included a survey of more than 1,000 students and 78 percent of them find it easier to learn in a real classroom.
Some of the reasons cited included the fact that there was little interaction in an online setting and that online classes were just a lot of reading and not much actual instruction. Students in the survey also had their doubts about how reputable an online degree or diploma would be. Nearly half were concerned that online education is not as respectable as a traditional program and this raised issues about what employers might think.
Hands-On Skills Learned in a Traditional Plumbing School Classroom
It’s no surprise that plumbing is a hands-on kind of career. This is not an office job or a desk job. As a plumber you will constantly be working with your hands, using tools, installing pipes and fixtures, and making fixes to existing systems. This is why it is so crucial that you learn through a plumbing school that actually lets you practice these skills with the guidance of an instructor:
- How to use basic power tools and hand tools
- How to use specialized plumbing tools
- Reading and interpreting real construction drawings
- Sizing, cutting, and fitting pipes
- Installing different types of fixtures
- Installing pumps
- Working with drainage, waste, and sanitation systems
- Unclogging drains
- Diagnosing and fixing plumbing problems
Technically you could try these things on your own after learning about the online courses, but you would need to get all the parts and tools, find someone willing to let you experiment on their plumbing, and you would not have the benefit of an instructor there to guide you. Just imagine all that could go wrong.
In a real plumbing school classroom, practicing these skills is a given. It’s part of the curriculum to roll up your sleeves and actually do the work, use the tools, and apply what your instructors have taught you. It’s something you simply cannot get to its full benefit when learning a skilled trade online.
At Florida Technical College, you can learn hands-on plumbing skills that will prepare you for apprenticeships, entry-level jobs, on the job training, and to pass certification exams. The plumbing diploma program is available at the Kissimmee campus, a central location with easy access to the entire Orlando metro area. If you’re ready to learn more about the program, contact us today.