How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Alabaster Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Alabaster AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose 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 Courses
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Alabaster AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four 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 ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Alabaster AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Choosing an HVAC program online is one option in attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Alabaster AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Alabaster and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Certification Courses
When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Alabaster AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Alabaster AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify 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 of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Alabaster AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
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 on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Alabaster AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Alabaster AL, check that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Picking the ideal HVAC training program is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Alabaster AL.