How to Select the Best HVAC School Near Andalusia Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Andalusia AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things that you need to research 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 covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are several choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant 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. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Andalusia Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as 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 cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Andalusia AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Andalusia AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Andalusia and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Andalusia AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Classes
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Andalusia AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Andalusia 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 relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require 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 finish the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can result in 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Andalusia AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Andalusia AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Andalusia AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Andalusia 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 charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Andalusia AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Choosing the right HVAC school program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this post, you should select an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices 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 as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Andalusia AL.