How to Choose the Right HVAC Training Class near Montgomery Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Montgomery AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although 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 completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Montgomery AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of 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 comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Montgomery AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, a number of 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Montgomery AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Montgomery AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Montgomery and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Montgomery AL area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Montgomery AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Montgomery AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Montgomery AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using 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 looking for. If not, ask a local Montgomery AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Montgomery AL residence. Take note 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 important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Montgomery AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed 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 plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally 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. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Montgomery AL.