How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Athens Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Athens AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC trade 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 Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, 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 a voluntary way for Athens AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few 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 proficiency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians 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 mandated in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each credential offered near Athens AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually 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 for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 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 appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Athens AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Attending an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most 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 in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Athens AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Athens and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Athens AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Athens AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught together 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 HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Athens AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Athens AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Athens AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Athens AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Find Out More About Athens HVAC Programs In Your Area
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Choosing the right HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Athens AL.