How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling School near Pelham Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Pelham AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? Many potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
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, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Pelham AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, often achieved in just six months, though 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 programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Pelham AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, a number of 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 or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your future 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 getting some experience in the trade in Pelham AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Pelham AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Pelham and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Pelham AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Pelham AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list 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 an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Pelham AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Pelham AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides 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 trained 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, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Pelham AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Pelham AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Pelham AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance 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 educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Pelham AL.