How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you need? Some potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, 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. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to 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 provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Vestavia Hills AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level 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 supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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 ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Vestavia Hills AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Vestavia Hills AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Vestavia Hills and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down 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 United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area have acquired 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 a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors 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 broader directory of alumni, which can result in 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 a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in 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 difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Find Out More About Vestavia Hills HVAC Training Programs Near You
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate 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 proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Vestavia Hills AL.