How to Choose the Right HVAC School Near Alexander City Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Alexander City AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. 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. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often completed in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Alexander City Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. 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 background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Alexander City AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Alexander City AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Alexander City and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Alexander City AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are available. 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 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 professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Trade Schools
Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Alexander City AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Alexander City AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Alexander City AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Alexander City AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build 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 up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Alexander City AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Alexander City AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Alexander City AL, check that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this post, you need to select an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour 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 whether night or weekend classes are offered 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 comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Alexander City AL.