How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other things 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Tuscaloosa AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Following 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 competency examination and can 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 required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, 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 wish to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a variety of choices available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in as little as six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Tuscaloosa AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Tuscaloosa AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for many Tuscaloosa AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Tuscaloosa and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Tuscaloosa AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain 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. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader 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 will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides 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 instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Tuscaloosa AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger 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 students and teachers. Speak with a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, 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, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper 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 appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Tuscaloosa AL.