How to Pick the Right HVAC Certification Course near Madison Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Madison AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you need? A number of future students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Madison AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often achieved in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Madison AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Madison AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly 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 instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Madison AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Madison and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Madison AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Madison AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean 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 a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Madison AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Madison AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding 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. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Madison AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Madison AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Madison AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Finding the right HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Madison AL.