How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Prattville Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Prattville AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade 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 professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Prattville AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved 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. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary 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 industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, some 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 conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, in addition to 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 going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Prattville AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Prattville and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
As soon as you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Prattville AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Prattville AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some 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 reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Prattville AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Prattville AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school 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 technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Prattville AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Prattville 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 charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Prattville AL, check that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers 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.
Learn More About Prattville HVAC Trade Schools In Your Area
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should check out 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether 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 choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Prattville AL.