How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Mobile Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Mobile AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Mobile AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam 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 professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain 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 courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Mobile AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Mobile 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 Online Classes
Attending an HVAC school online is one approach in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost 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 instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for some Mobile AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Mobile and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Mobile AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two 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 vocational programs in the Mobile AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive 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 certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Mobile AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade 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 HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Mobile AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Mobile AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Mobile AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 desirable that you get as much individualized 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 observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Mobile AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour 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, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Mobile AL.