How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Cullman Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Cullman AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors 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 addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Cullman AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to 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 technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Cullman AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Cullman AL, later returning to obtain 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 Training Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one option in getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Cullman AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Cullman and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Cullman AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Cullman AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can result in 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 field, but also that it has the network of Cullman AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Cullman AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Cullman AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Cullman AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Cullman AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, 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 due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should pick 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 factors to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Cullman AL.