How to Select the Right HVAC Degree Program near Bessemer Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Bessemer AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you require? Many potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things 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. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Bessemer AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the important 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 may 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, often accomplished in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Bessemer AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two 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 for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals 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 gaining some experience in the field in Bessemer AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly 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 balance of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Bessemer AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Bessemer and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Bessemer AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Bessemer AL area have attained 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, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of 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 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 program and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also 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 utilize 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Bessemer AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Bessemer AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local 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 using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Bessemer AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Bessemer AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Bessemer AL, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally 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 teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Bessemer AL.