How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Decatur Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Decatur AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the right one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some 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 additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Decatur AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as 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. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are several options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Decatur AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Decatur AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Decatur AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Decatur and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Decatur AL area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Decatur AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive 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 affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Decatur AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Decatur AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to 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 provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Decatur AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Decatur AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Picking the right HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Decatur AL.