How to Pick the Right HVAC School near Northport Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Northport AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some 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. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Northport AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be required in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Northport AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for 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 mastering 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 future career objectives are, in addition to 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 Northport AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Attending an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. 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 balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Northport AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Northport and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Northport AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Northport AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher 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 employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Northport AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Northport AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Northport AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Northport AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in 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 desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Northport AL, confirm 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. Finally, ask 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
Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit 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. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Northport AL.