How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling School Near Auburn Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Auburn AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors that you need to look into 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 addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Auburn Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Auburn AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many 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 on the web, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Auburn AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Auburn and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
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 professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Auburn AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the significant 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 acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to 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 examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Schools
Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Auburn AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Auburn AL area have received 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 example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate 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 broader list 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 affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Auburn AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Auburn AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already 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 Auburn AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Auburn AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor 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. Last, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Auburn AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should pick an HVAC trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Auburn AL.