How to Find the Right HVAC College near Phenix City Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many future students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Phenix City AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are offered. 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 competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must 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 required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Phenix City AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored 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 being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Phenix City AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach in getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Phenix City AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Phenix City and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Phenix City AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Phenix City AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational 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 businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Phenix City AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Phenix City AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger 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 instructors. Speak to a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Phenix City AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Picking the right HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered 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 detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Phenix City AL.