How to Choose the Right HVAC Certification Course near Cullman Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Cullman AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Cullman AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Classes
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. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in as little as six 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 related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Cullman AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, 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 standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Cullman AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Cullman AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Cullman and study materials may be reduced, 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 minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Cullman AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Cullman AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning 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 program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can produce 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 a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Cullman AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Cullman AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Cullman AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Cullman AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Cullman AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Choosing the right HVAC training course is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Cullman AL.