How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Florence Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Florence AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? A number of future students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things 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. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore 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 Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Florence AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Florence AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Florence AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Florence AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Florence and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Florence AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Florence AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire 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 approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Florence AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Florence AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Florence AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Florence AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Florence AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Learn More About Florence Heating and Cooling Programs Near You
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed 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 field. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire 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 also. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Florence AL.