How to Select the Best HVAC Certificate Program Near Athens Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Athens AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically completed in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Athens Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Athens AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one option to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Athens AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Athens and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Athens AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably 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
As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Athens AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Athens AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify 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 percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It may also signify that the teachers 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 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 an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Athens AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Athens AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Athens AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm 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 Athens AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Athens AL.