How to Select the Right HVAC College near Alabaster Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Alabaster AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency 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 professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically achieved in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish 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 preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Alabaster AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Attending an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Alabaster AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Alabaster and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes
As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Alabaster AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Alabaster AL area have acquired 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, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can produce 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 a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Alabaster AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Alabaster AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Alabaster AL, check that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Alabaster AL.