How to Enroll In the Best HVAC School Near Center Point Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Center Point AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to get the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. 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. These and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are a variety 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 minimum amount of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Center Point Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to finish, some 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting 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 option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Center Point AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also offer 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 online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Center Point AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Center Point and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Center Point AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade 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 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 as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Center Point AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Center Point 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 instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can produce 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 an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Center Point AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Center Point AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Center Point AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Center Point AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Center Point AL, check that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose an Heating and Cooling school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember 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 assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Center Point AL.