How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Prichard Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Prichard AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you require? Many future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things 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 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 a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively 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 commonly required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Prichard AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Prichard AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four 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 ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Prichard AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Prichard AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Prichard and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Prichard AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Prichard AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also suggest 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 broader list of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Prichard AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Prichard AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Prichard AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Prichard AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Find Out More About Prichard HVAC Schools In Your Area
Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Prichard AL.