How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Athens Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Athens AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively 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, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Athens AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can 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 as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are several choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Athens AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, some degrees incorporate 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Athens AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for 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 via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Athens AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Athens and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Athens AL area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Athens AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual 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. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools 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 comparing have working partnerships with local Athens AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Athens AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Athens AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Athens AL, confirm that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 Athens AL.