How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Oxford Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Oxford AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Oxford AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 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 necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Oxford AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Oxford AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, 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 attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Oxford AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Oxford and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Oxford AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Oxford AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also 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 mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Oxford AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Oxford AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Oxford AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Oxford 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 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 issues.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC training course is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Oxford AL.