How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program Near Calera Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Calera AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train 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 deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Calera Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for 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.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Calera AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain 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 option in obtaining your training and receiving 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 in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Calera AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Calera and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Calera AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam 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 examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Calera AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Calera AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Calera AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Calera AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Calera AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Calera AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out 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 evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Calera AL, check that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Finding the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Calera AL.