How to Choose the Right HVAC Training Class near Decatur Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Decatur AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things that you need to look into 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 in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Decatur AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned 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 examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians 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.
Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 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 applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Decatur AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Decatur AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Decatur AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Decatur and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Decatur AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Decatur AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in 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 additionally that it has the network of Decatur AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training 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 companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Decatur AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Decatur AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Decatur AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Picking the right HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick 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 things to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines 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 commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Decatur AL.