How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Vocational School Near Alabaster Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details 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 benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually completed in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Alabaster Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Alabaster AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Alabaster AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Alabaster and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Alabaster AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians 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 might be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Trade Schools
After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Alabaster AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Alabaster AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Alabaster AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Alabaster AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might 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 larger 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 to some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools 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 Alabaster AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this post, you need to pick an Heating and Cooling school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are ample hands-on 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 talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night 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 right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Alabaster AL.