How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Program near Enterprise Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Enterprise AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Enterprise AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Enterprise AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and money 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 trade in Enterprise AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number 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 some Enterprise AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Enterprise and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Enterprise AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Enterprise AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also suggest 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 may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Enterprise AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Enterprise AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form 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 state-of-the-art 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. If not, ask a local Enterprise AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Enterprise AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs 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 Enterprise AL, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Choosing the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Enterprise AL.