How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Cullman Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Cullman AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, often completed in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Cullman Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level 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 supplies a more extensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with 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 acquiring some experience in the trade in Cullman AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part 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 rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Cullman AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Cullman and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools 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 online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Cullman AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be earned 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 needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Cullman AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Cullman AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Cullman AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Cullman AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides 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 state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Cullman AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Cullman AL home. Take note 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 important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Cullman AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should choose an HVAC school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore 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. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Cullman AL.