How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Mobile Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Mobile AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors 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 discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
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 air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Mobile AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Here 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 competency exam and may 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often accomplished in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Mobile AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, some 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Mobile AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Mobile AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Mobile and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Mobile AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Mobile AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at 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 might suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also 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 affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Mobile AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Mobile AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Mobile AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Mobile AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few 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 schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Mobile AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Mobile AL.