How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Class near Oxford Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Oxford AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Oxford AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the industry 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 achieved by passing a proficiency exam 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 professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are several alternatives offered 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 least period of time, often completed in as little as six months, although some programs 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 can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Oxford AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate 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 traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Oxford AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Oxford AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Oxford and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of 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 HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Oxford AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Oxford AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can mean 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 Oxford AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Oxford AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Oxford AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one 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 students and instructors. Speak with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Oxford AL, check that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, 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 responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Picking the right HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out 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 training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Oxford AL.