How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Princeton Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Princeton AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors 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. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Princeton AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Princeton AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Princeton AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Princeton AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Princeton and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Princeton AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Princeton AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Princeton AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Princeton AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Princeton AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Princeton AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Princeton AL, verify that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Learn More About Princeton Heating and Cooling Programs In Your Area
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and 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 things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally 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. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Princeton AL.