How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Montgomery Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Montgomery AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation 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 pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician 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 specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Montgomery AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually accomplished in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth 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 preferred 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 provides a more comprehensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Montgomery AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Attending an HVAC program online is one option to getting your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Montgomery AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Montgomery and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Montgomery AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Montgomery AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a superior education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC 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 indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ 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 Montgomery AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs 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 relationships with local Montgomery AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently 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 Montgomery AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Montgomery AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Montgomery AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Learn More About Montgomery Heating and Cooling Trade Schools In Your Area
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember 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 filter 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 specialist in Montgomery AL.