How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling College near Athens Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Athens AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some 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 benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Athens AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained 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. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as 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 technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are several options offered for HVAC training 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, often completed in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Athens AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, a number of 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 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 right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Athens AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Athens AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Athens and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs 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 more convenient to accommodate school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Athens AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Athens AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states mandate 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 could indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Athens AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools 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, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Athens AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Athens AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added 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 challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Athens AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Athens AL.