How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Program near Fairhope Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Fairhope AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you require? Many 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 necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a 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 trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Fairhope AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination 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 professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps 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 vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically completed in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Fairhope AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, some 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 traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Fairhope AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor 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 Fairhope AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Fairhope and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Fairhope AL area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Fairhope AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also mean that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize 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 Fairhope AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Fairhope AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies 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 using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Fairhope AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Fairhope AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairhope AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Learn More About Fairhope Heating and Cooling Programs In Your Area
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you need to select 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 look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Fairhope AL.