How to Pick the Right HVAC Degree Program near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Birmingham AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you need? A number of future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation completion 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 within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Birmingham AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency 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 need to have three years of experience together with 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 specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually completed in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Birmingham AL.
- Certificate. Normally 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 exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, many 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning 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 dependent on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Birmingham AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Birmingham AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Birmingham and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments 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 schedule.
Questions For HVAC Schools
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Birmingham AL area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Birmingham AL area have earned 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, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate 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 course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory 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 validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Birmingham AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade 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 inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Birmingham AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Birmingham AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Find Out More About Birmingham HVAC Training Near You
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose 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 factors to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person 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 teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Birmingham AL.