How to Enroll In the Best Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Bay Minette Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Bay Minette AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to get the training that you need? Many potential students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors 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 criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical 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 6 months, though some programs 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 might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Bay Minette Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to finish, a number of 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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 right credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives 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 acquiring some experience in the trade in Bay Minette AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require 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 remainder of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Bay Minette AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Bay Minette and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Bay Minette AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry 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 attained by passing a proficiency examination 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For HVAC Certification Courses
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 limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Bay Minette AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Bay Minette AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain 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. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may 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 a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Bay Minette AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Bay Minette AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school 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, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Bay Minette AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Bay Minette AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to 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 difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Bay Minette AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Selecting the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this post, you should select an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Bay Minette AL.