How to Choose the Right HVAC Program near Anniston Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Anniston AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the right one to receive the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Anniston AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are available. Below 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 may 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 together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with 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 might be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction 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 minimum period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Anniston AL.
- Certificate. Normally 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 industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Anniston AL, subsequently 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 Training Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Anniston AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Anniston and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Anniston AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Anniston AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates 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 agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify 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 lower completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher 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 use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Anniston AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Anniston AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Anniston AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Anniston AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction 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 instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Anniston AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Finding the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick 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 ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit 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. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Anniston AL.