How to Pick the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Princeton Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Princeton AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many 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 relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation 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 in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Princeton AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly 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 comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Princeton AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to finish, some degrees include 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Princeton AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly 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 instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Princeton AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Princeton and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Princeton AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Princeton AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC 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 might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct 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 produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Princeton AL HVAC employers to help graduates acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Princeton AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local 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 using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Princeton AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Princeton AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Princeton AL, check that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Find Out More About Princeton Heating and Cooling Programs In Your Area
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. 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 trade. Other factors to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance 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 narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Princeton AL.