How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program Near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Birmingham AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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. Those and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed 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 for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Birmingham Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically 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 tailored more towards 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 air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Birmingham AL, subsequently returning to earn 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 Classes Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for many Birmingham AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Birmingham and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals 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, although each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Birmingham AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, 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 important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Trade Schools
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Birmingham AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Birmingham AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a quality education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Birmingham AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Birmingham AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Birmingham AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to some 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 experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs 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 Birmingham AL, check that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Picking the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this post, you should select an HVAC technical school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 Birmingham AL.