How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Hueytown Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Hueytown AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to get the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some 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 discuss how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Hueytown AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Schools
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. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in just 6 months, however 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 for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Hueytown AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 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 right credential program will be dependent 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 even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Hueytown AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Hueytown AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Hueytown and study supplies 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 less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.
Questions For HVAC Schools
Once you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Hueytown AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Hueytown AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Hueytown AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Hueytown AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local 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 using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Hueytown AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Hueytown AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger 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. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Hueytown AL, check that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, 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, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the right HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available 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 checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Hueytown AL.