How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling School near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are significant 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. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency 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 field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth 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 beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to complete, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Vestavia Hills AL, eventually returning to acquire 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
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some 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 participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Vestavia Hills AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Vestavia Hills and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Questions For HVAC Trade Schools
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Vestavia Hills AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available 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 Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may produce 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Vestavia Hills AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition charges 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 some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs 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 schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose 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 features to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Vestavia Hills AL.