How to Enroll In the Right HVAC School near Cullman Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Cullman AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business 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 skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Cullman AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are some 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 earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Cullman AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for 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 study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Cullman AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Cullman AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Cullman and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Cullman AL area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Cullman 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 a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Cullman AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Cullman AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish 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 working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Cullman AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Cullman AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Cullman AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the right HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter 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 specialist in Cullman AL.