How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling School near Albertville Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Albertville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors 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. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Albertville AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Albertville AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c 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 suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require 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 study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Albertville AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number 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 on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Albertville AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Albertville and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of 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, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Albertville AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Albertville AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also mean 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 more extensive directory of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize 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 also that it has the network of Albertville AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Albertville AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Albertville AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Albertville AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Albertville AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of hands-on 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 current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Albertville AL.