How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Prattville Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Prattville AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. 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. These and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Prattville AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can 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 together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required 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.
Since licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related 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 short explanation of each credential offered near Prattville AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 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 towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught 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 dependent on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Prattville AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Prattville AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Prattville and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career 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 busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Prattville AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Prattville AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require 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 could signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers 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 broader directory of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Prattville AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC technical programs are taught along 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 HVAC businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Prattville AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding 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 certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Prattville AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Prattville AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Prattville AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Finding the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Prattville AL.