How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling College near Hueytown Alabama
Now that 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 Hueytown AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely 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 skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Hueytown AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam 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 field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, 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 wish to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Hueytown AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 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 towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Hueytown AL, later 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 Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Hueytown AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Hueytown and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions For HVAC Schools
When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Hueytown AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Hueytown AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure 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 quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course 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 course. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize 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 field, but also that it has the network of Hueytown AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC vocational 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 HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Hueytown AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Hueytown AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Hueytown AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training 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 teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Hueytown AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing provide 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 policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Picking the right HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk 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, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Hueytown AL.