How to Select the Best Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Fort Payne Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Fort Payne AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few 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. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Fort Payne Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. 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 knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Fort Payne AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Fort Payne AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Fort Payne and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Fort Payne AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 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 along with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Fort Payne AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Fort Payne AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed 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 high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may produce 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 a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Fort Payne AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Fort Payne 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 regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Fort Payne AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Fort Payne AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fort Payne AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy 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 ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should select an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction 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 ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right 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 dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Fort Payne AL.