How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Daphne Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Daphne AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Daphne AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Here 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 competency exam 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 professional experience together with 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 examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically completed in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Daphne AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Daphne AL, subsequently returning 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
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Daphne AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Daphne and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Schools
After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you wish to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Daphne AL area and all over 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 stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Daphne AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing 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 indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader 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 field, but also that it has the network of Daphne AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Daphne AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Daphne AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Daphne AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Daphne AL, check that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick 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 factors to search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask 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 also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Daphne AL.