How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling School near Prattville Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Prattville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors 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. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Prattville AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Prattville AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide 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 cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, some 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Prattville AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Prattville AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Prattville and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Schools
As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Prattville AL area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Prattville AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on 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 acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program 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 of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean 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 a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Prattville AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Prattville AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm 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 on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Prattville AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Prattville AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Prattville AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Choosing the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Prattville AL.