How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Prichard Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Prichard AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate 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 covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
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 central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Prichard AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination 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 field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction 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 lesser period of time, often achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Prichard AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Prichard AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor 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 approach may be a more practical solution for many Prichard AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Prichard and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling 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 little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Questions For HVAC Trade Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Prichard AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative 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 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Prichard AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm 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 receive an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of 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 course. A low completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also essential 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 can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Prichard AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Prichard AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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 under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Prichard AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Prichard AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick 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 things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Prichard AL.