How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling 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 select the right one to receive the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some 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 can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required 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 offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Vestavia Hills AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Vestavia Hills AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Vestavia Hills AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Vestavia Hills and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Vestavia Hills AL.