How to Pick the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Phenix City Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to get the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Phenix City AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned 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 must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically completed in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Phenix City AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, many 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Phenix City AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Phenix City AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Phenix City and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Phenix City AL area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Phenix City AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering 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 suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also mean that the teachers were not qualified 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 alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Phenix City AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to 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 may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise 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 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 reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things 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 talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Phenix City AL.