How to Choose the Right HVAC School near Mobile Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Mobile AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other things 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 discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently 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 mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Mobile AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged 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 makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Mobile AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Mobile AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Mobile AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Mobile and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Mobile AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Mobile AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a superior education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Mobile AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Mobile AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art 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. Otherwise, ask a local Mobile AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Mobile AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Mobile AL, check that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC school program is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Mobile AL.