How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details 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 additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for 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, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Tuscaloosa AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount 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 programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each credential offered near Tuscaloosa AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, a number of 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Tuscaloosa AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in 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 remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for some Tuscaloosa AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Tuscaloosa and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing 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 may signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger 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. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications 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 attend classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa 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 offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter 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 Tuscaloosa AL.