How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Hoover Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Hoover AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Hoover AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can 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 together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually completed in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Hoover AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential 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 & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards 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 air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Hoover AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number 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 may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Hoover AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Hoover and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.
Questions For HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Hoover AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Hoover AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It may also indicate 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 directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Hoover AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Hoover AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Hoover AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Hoover AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Hoover AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose 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 features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Hoover AL.