How to Select the Right HVAC Training Program near Phenix City Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? A number of future students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Phenix City AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be received 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 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 made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative 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 select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a number of alternatives available 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 lesser amount of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, however some programs 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 can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Phenix City AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, many 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning 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 aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Phenix City AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility to getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Phenix City AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Phenix City and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Trade Schools
As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Phenix City AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Phenix City AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at 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 might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, 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 validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction 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 HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Phenix City AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Phenix City AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, 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 reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Phenix City AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Phenix City AL.