How to Choose the Right HVAC Training Class near Auburn Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Auburn AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you require? A number of future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things 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 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 air conditioning technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Auburn AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. 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. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational 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 achieved in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify 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 deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Auburn AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees include 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning 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 future career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Auburn AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Auburn AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Auburn and study supplies may be lessened, 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 obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Auburn AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Auburn AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Auburn AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Auburn AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Auburn AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Auburn 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 charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Auburn AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical 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 speak 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 options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Auburn AL.