How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Program Near Gardendale Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Gardendale AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Gardendale Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Gardendale AL, subsequently going back to acquire 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 Training Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Gardendale AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Gardendale and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Gardendale AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 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 in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Training Programs
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Gardendale AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Gardendale AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not competent 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 more extensive list of graduates, which can 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Gardendale AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Gardendale AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish 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 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 specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Gardendale AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Gardendale AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized 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 see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Gardendale AL, check that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Selecting the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick an Heating and Cooling school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak 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 choices and whether night or weekend classes are available 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 detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Gardendale AL.