How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Mountain Brook Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Mountain Brook AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things 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 discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for 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, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Mountain Brook AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary 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 technicians. They provide 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 cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to finish, some degrees feature 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Mountain Brook AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many 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 approach may be a more convenient solution for many Mountain Brook AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Mountain Brook and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
Questions For HVAC Training Classes
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Mountain Brook AL area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Mountain Brook AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Mountain Brook AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many 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 within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Mountain Brook AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Mountain Brook AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Mountain Brook AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Find Out More About Mountain Brook HVAC Training Programs Near You
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC school program 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Mountain Brook AL.