How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling College near Dixiana Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Dixiana AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors that you need to research 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Dixiana AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on readies 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. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often achieved in as little as 6 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 can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Dixiana AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, many 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Dixiana AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Dixiana AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Dixiana and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Dixiana AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Dixiana AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is 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 securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering 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 could indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may result in 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 a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Dixiana AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Dixiana AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Dixiana AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Dixiana AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in 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 get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Dixiana AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Dixiana AL.