How to Choose the Right HVAC Training Program near Madison Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Madison AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently 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 typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Madison AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be earned 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 must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Madison AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees include 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 standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Madison AL, subsequently returning to obtain 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 Schools
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also provide 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 attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Madison AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Madison and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Madison AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will take into consideration. 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 schools in the Madison AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can result in 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 also that it has the network of Madison AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Madison AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Madison AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Madison AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Madison AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Madison AL.