How to Pick the Right HVAC Certification Training near Fairhope Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Fairhope AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Fairhope AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination 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 offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in 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 pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically completed in just 6 months, although some programs 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 can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Fairhope AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, many 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Fairhope AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some 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 attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Fairhope AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Fairhope and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Fairhope AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Fairhope AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can result in 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Fairhope AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Fairhope AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Fairhope AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. 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, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Fairhope AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Finding the ideal HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper 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 informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Fairhope AL.