How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class near Mountain Brook Alabama
Now that you have decided 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 choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Mountain Brook AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Mountain Brook AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Mountain Brook AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Choosing an HVAC program online is one option in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Mountain Brook AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Mountain Brook and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Mountain Brook AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Mountain Brook AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Mountain Brook AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Mountain Brook AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Mountain Brook AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Mountain Brook AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, check that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Find Out More About Mountain Brook HVAC Training Near You
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance 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 choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Mountain Brook AL.