How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Vocational School Near Bessemer Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Bessemer AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just 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. Those and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn 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, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Bessemer Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide 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 and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees feature 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Bessemer AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Bessemer AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Bessemer and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade 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 commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Bessemer AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required 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 offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Certification Classes
After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Bessemer AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Bessemer AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Bessemer AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Bessemer AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on 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 up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Bessemer AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Bessemer AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors 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 schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Bessemer AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Bessemer AL.