How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Homewood Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Homewood AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors 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 additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Homewood AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few 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 proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with 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. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, usually achieved in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Homewood AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred 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 delivers a more extensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Homewood AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one option in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Homewood AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Homewood and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
After you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Homewood AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Homewood AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Homewood AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Homewood AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Homewood AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Homewood AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees 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 monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Homewood AL, check that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the right HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect 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. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Homewood AL.