How to Choose the Right HVAC Certification Class near Montgomery Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Montgomery AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Montgomery AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Montgomery AL.
- Certificate. Generally 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 industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to complete, a number of 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Montgomery AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for 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 rest of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Montgomery AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Montgomery and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Montgomery AL area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Montgomery AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may produce 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Montgomery AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Montgomery AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. 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 contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Montgomery AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training 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 teachers and students. Speak with some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
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 Montgomery AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Montgomery AL.