How to Find the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Albertville Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Albertville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Albertville AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry 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 earned by passing a competency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Albertville AL.
- Certificate. Generally 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 knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as 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 air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Albertville AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number 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 can be participated in online, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Albertville AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Albertville and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Albertville AL area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Albertville AL area have received 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 a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Albertville AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Albertville AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Albertville AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Albertville AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Albertville AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying 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 profession. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Albertville AL.