How to Choose the Best HVAC School Near Cullman Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Cullman AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors 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 discussed 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 Schools
There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Cullman Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to 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 Cullman AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Cullman AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Cullman and study materials may 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 work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Cullman AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the trade that are available. 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 competency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Trade Schools
After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Cullman AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Cullman AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified 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 more extensive directory of graduates, which can result in 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 a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Cullman AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction 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 HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Cullman AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Cullman AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Cullman AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition fees 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 a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Cullman AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select an HVAC vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Cullman AL.