How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Class near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are several choices offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Vestavia Hills AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, some 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 or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Vestavia Hills AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part 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 remainder of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Vestavia Hills AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Vestavia Hills and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Trade Schools
When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list 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 choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Vestavia Hills AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a quality education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 complete the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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 technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle 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 comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure 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, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching 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 ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. 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 Vestavia Hills AL.