How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling College near Enterprise Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Enterprise AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you need? Some future students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just 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. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Enterprise AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be received 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train 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 advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Enterprise AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning 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, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Enterprise AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option in attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Enterprise AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Enterprise and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Enterprise AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Enterprise AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high 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 utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Enterprise AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Enterprise AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Enterprise AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Enterprise AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Enterprise AL, confirm that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the right HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect 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. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Enterprise AL.