How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Course near Northport Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Northport AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things 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 covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Northport AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are several alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Northport AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting 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 invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Northport AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Northport AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Northport and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Northport AL area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Northport AL area have received 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 relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Northport AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Northport AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local 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 currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Northport 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 Northport AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may 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 monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Northport AL, check that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Learn More About Northport Heating and Cooling Trade Schools Near You
Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. 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 proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Northport AL.