How to Pick the Right HVAC Certification Training near Millbrook Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Millbrook AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Millbrook AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be acquired 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 needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train 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 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate 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. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Millbrook AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually 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 towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Millbrook AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Millbrook AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Millbrook and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Millbrook AL area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Millbrook AL area have received 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 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 agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many 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 reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 field, but additionally that it has the network of Millbrook AL HVAC employers to help graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Millbrook AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers 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. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Millbrook AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Millbrook AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Millbrook AL, verify that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Choosing the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing 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 eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Millbrook AL.