How to Pick the Right HVAC College near Auburn Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Auburn AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Auburn AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, although 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 programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Auburn AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred 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 delivers a more extensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, a number of 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four 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 right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Auburn AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Auburn AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Auburn and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Training Classes
When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Auburn AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Auburn AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might 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 more extensive list of alumni, which may 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Auburn AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Auburn AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing 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 campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date 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 expecting. If not, ask a local Auburn AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Auburn AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Auburn AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Auburn AL.