How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Prichard Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Prichard AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. 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 other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry 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 generally required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Prichard AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are a few of the significant 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 may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Prichard AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically 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 towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Prichard AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Prichard AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Prichard and study materials may be minimized, 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 little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Prichard AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Prichard 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 relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a quality education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive 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 will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Prichard AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Prichard AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Prichard AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Prichard AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour 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, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating 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 technician in Prichard AL.