How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Program Near Clay Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Clay AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things that you need to research 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 addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Clay Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Clay AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Clay AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Clay and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Clay AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers 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 must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Classes
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Clay AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Clay AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 program. A low completion rate could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Clay AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Clay AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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 under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Clay AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Clay AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with 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 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 Clay AL, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this post, you need to choose an HVAC vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance 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 narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Clay AL.