How to Choose the Right HVAC Degree Program near Fairhope Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning 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 pick the right one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few 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. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Fairhope AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists 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 could be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Fairhope AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate 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 call for 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.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps 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 tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete 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 participated in online, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Fairhope AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Fairhope and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes
As soon as you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Fairhope AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Fairhope AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important 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 can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Fairhope AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Fairhope AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Fairhope AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Fairhope AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairhope AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Picking the ideal HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk 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 choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Fairhope AL.