How to Find the Right HVAC Degree Program near Montgomery Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Montgomery AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of 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. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Montgomery AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed 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 applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Montgomery AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 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 conventional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Montgomery AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Montgomery AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Montgomery and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Montgomery AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Montgomery AL area have attained 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 pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may result in 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 an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Montgomery AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Montgomery AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job 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 state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Montgomery AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Montgomery AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few 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 schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only 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 permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Choosing the right HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose 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 plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist 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 specialist in Montgomery AL.