How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Program Near Fairfield Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Fairfield AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Fairfield Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even 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.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Fairfield AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Fairfield AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Fairfield and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. 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 minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training 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 widely 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, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Fairfield AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs
When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Fairfield AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Fairfield AL area have attained 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 a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Fairfield AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Fairfield AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Fairfield AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Fairfield AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition charges 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 monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors 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 programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Fairfield AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Choosing the right HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this post, you need to select an HVAC technical school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Fairfield AL.