How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Certification Training near Opelika Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Opelika AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other details 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 training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Opelika AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned 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 required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are several choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Opelika AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Opelika AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Opelika AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Opelika and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations 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 hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
Once you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Opelika AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Opelika AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, 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 affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Opelika AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together 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 labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Opelika AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment 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, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Opelika AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Opelika AL, check that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Find Out More About Opelika HVAC Courses In Your Area
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to 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 teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Opelika AL.