How to Select the Right HVAC Program near Troy Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Troy AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. 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. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC technical 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 frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Troy AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. 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. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. 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 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant 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 short description of each option offered near Troy AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for 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 being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Troy AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one option in getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Troy AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Troy and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Troy AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Troy AL area have earned 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 pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Troy AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Troy AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical 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 tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Troy AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Troy AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Troy AL, check that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you should choose 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 features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Troy AL.