How to Pick the Right HVAC Program near Decatur Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade 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? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details 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 additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Decatur AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two 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 together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Decatur AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Decatur AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for some Decatur AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Decatur and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Decatur AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Decatur AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high 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 employ 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Decatur AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Decatur AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician 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 pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Decatur AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Decatur AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Selecting the right HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to 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. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Decatur AL.