How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Huntsville Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Huntsville AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
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, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Huntsville AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as 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 techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Huntsville AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, many 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to being taught 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 dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources 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 trade in Huntsville AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure 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 possibility to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Huntsville AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Huntsville and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Huntsville AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Huntsville 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 relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Huntsville AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Huntsville AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Huntsville AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Huntsville AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Huntsville AL, check that the schools you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Choosing the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick 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 personally 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 teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating 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 Huntsville AL.