How to Find the Right HVAC School near Alabaster Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many future students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Alabaster AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Alabaster AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Alabaster AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Alabaster AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Alabaster and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Alabaster AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Alabaster AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering 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 suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list 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 field, but additionally that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Alabaster AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Alabaster AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized training 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 see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Alabaster AL, confirm that the programs 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. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Alabaster AL.