How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Mobile Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Mobile AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few 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. Those and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Mobile AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, often accomplished in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Mobile AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 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.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Mobile AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Mobile AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Mobile and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Mobile AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Mobile AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may produce 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 Mobile AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught together 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 Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Mobile AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure 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 on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Mobile AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Mobile AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction 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 see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Mobile AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure 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.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding 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 certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are ample practical 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 explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 contractor in Mobile AL.