How to Find the Right HVAC Training Class Near Alabaster Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details 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 criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several choices 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 lesser amount of time, often completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Alabaster Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 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.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Alabaster AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Alabaster AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Alabaster and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Alabaster AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 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 location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When 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 list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Alabaster AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are several 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 Alabaster AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train 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 directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ 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 Alabaster AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Alabaster AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area 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 on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Alabaster AL home. Take note 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 a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors 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 schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Alabaster AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Selecting the ideal HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you should select an Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Alabaster AL.