How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Decatur Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Decatur AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you require? Many future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. 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. These and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Decatur AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be received 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are several options 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 lesser period of time, often achieved in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Decatur AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Decatur AL, subsequently returning to obtain 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 Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost 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 rest of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Decatur AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Decatur and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments 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 lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Decatur AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Decatur AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is 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 acquire an excellent education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify 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 program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list 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 Decatur AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Decatur AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Decatur AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Decatur AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Decatur AL, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Learn More About Decatur HVAC Training Programs In Your Area
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk 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 evening or weekend classes are available 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 detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Decatur AL.