How to Choose the Right HVAC School near Dixiana Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Dixiana AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. 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 other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Dixiana AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Dixiana AL.
- Certificate. Usually 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 trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored 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 learn how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate 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 possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Dixiana AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Dixiana AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Dixiana and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Dixiana AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Dixiana AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Dixiana AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Dixiana AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Dixiana AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Dixiana AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few 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 schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Dixiana AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Picking the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should choose 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 features to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally 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 training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Dixiana AL.