How to Enroll In the Right HVAC College near Bessemer Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Bessemer AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional 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 means for Bessemer AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Bessemer AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge 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 as well as 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 aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Bessemer AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach in attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Bessemer AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Bessemer and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Bessemer AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Bessemer AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent 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 alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Bessemer AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade 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 Bessemer AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Bessemer AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Bessemer AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and find out 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 meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Bessemer AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Bessemer AL.