How to Select the Right HVAC College near Anniston Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Anniston AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Anniston AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually completed in just six months, though some programs 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 training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Anniston AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Anniston AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Anniston AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Anniston and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Anniston AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Anniston AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Anniston AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Anniston AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Anniston AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Anniston AL home. 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 desirable that you receive 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 observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Anniston AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally 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 teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Anniston AL.