How to Find the Right HVAC Degree Program near Phenix City Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the right one to obtain the training that you require? Some future students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors that you need to look into 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 addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled 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 technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Phenix City AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs 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.
Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as 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 training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Phenix City AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually 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 towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Phenix City AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Phenix City AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Phenix City and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Phenix City AL area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Phenix City AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC 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 low completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use 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 field, but additionally that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Phenix City AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Phenix City AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Phenix City AL, check that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Finding the right HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally 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 teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Phenix City AL.