How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Birmingham AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to get the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just 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 other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Birmingham AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Birmingham AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for 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 cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Birmingham AL, subsequently 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 Courses Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Birmingham AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Birmingham and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Birmingham AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Birmingham AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Birmingham AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Birmingham AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date 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 under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Birmingham AL.