How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class near Talladega Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Talladega AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Talladega AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. 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 technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two 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 in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Talladega AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid 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. Normally taking two years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Talladega AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Talladega AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Talladega and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Talladega AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Talladega AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive 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 is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a quality education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can result in 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Talladega AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Talladega AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Talladega AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Talladega AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify 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 Talladega AL, verify that the schools you are looking at 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 protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to search for are lots of practical training and modern 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 faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Talladega AL.