How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling College near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs 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 mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Here 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 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 examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Vestavia Hills AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, many degrees feature 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.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Vestavia Hills AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some 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 attended online, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Vestavia Hills AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Vestavia Hills and study supplies may be lessened, 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 limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Vestavia Hills 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. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct 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 graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills 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 charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
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 at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, check that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Find Out More About Vestavia Hills Heating and Cooling Trade Schools In Your Area
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Vestavia Hills AL.