How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling School near Montgomery Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Montgomery AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors 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 addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Montgomery AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade 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 earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Montgomery AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. 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 understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Montgomery AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Montgomery AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Montgomery and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Montgomery AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Montgomery AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example 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. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Montgomery AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction 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 HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Montgomery AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. 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. Otherwise, ask a local Montgomery AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Montgomery AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Montgomery AL, verify that the schools you are looking at offer 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 policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC training course is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally 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 teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper 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 proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Montgomery AL.