How to Pick the Best HVAC Certification Course Near Center Point Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Center Point AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some 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 additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually accomplished in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Center Point Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering 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 based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Center Point AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Choosing an HVAC school online is one option to obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Center Point AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Center Point and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Center Point AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be received 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs
When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Center Point AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Center Point AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Center Point AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Center Point AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Center Point AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Center Point AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get 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 see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Center Point AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Choosing the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this post, you should choose an HVAC vocational school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art 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 faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right 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 proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Center Point AL.