How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Certification Course near Mountain Brook Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Mountain Brook AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors 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. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle 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 skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
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, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Mountain Brook AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are several options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge 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 Mountain Brook AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for 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 learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Mountain Brook AL, later returning to obtain 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 Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many 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 online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Mountain Brook AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Mountain Brook and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Mountain Brook AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Mountain Brook AL area have acquired 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 an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also mean that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Mountain Brook AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught along 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 Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Mountain Brook AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Mountain Brook AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Mountain Brook AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get 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 witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to some of the students and get their comments concerning 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 have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter 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 professional in Mountain Brook AL.