How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling College near Mountain Brook Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Mountain Brook AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some 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. Those and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Mountain Brook AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically accomplished in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly 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 provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Mountain Brook AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Mountain Brook AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Attending an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Mountain Brook AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Mountain Brook and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes
As soon as you have picked 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 many HVAC technical schools in the Mountain Brook AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Mountain Brook AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also mean that the instructors were not qualified 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 more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm 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 graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many 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 within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Mountain Brook AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Mountain Brook AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Mountain Brook AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors 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 programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Mountain Brook AL.