How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Helena Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action 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 receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively 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, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Helena AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Helena AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong 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. Typically requiring two years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require 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.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, together with 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 gaining some experience in the trade in Helena AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Helena AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Helena and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Helena AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Helena AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list 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 affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Helena AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade 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 considering have referring partnerships with local Helena AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Helena AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Helena AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one 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 observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, confirm that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling 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 community. Other factors to search for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Helena AL.