How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School near Helena Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Helena AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Helena AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of alternatives 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 least amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Helena AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally 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 suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 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 appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Helena AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach in getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many 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 can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Helena AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Helena and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Helena AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Helena AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors 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 list of graduates, 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 Helena AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs 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 Helena AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Helena AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Helena AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Picking the ideal HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Helena AL.