How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Class Near Gulf Shores Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Gulf Shores AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to research 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 addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are several choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Gulf Shores Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, many degrees include 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 conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Gulf Shores AL, later returning to earn 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 Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many 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 via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Gulf Shores AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Gulf Shores and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Gulf Shores AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Schools
After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Gulf Shores AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Gulf Shores AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Gulf Shores AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous 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 companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Gulf Shores AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Gulf Shores AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Gulf Shores AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Gulf Shores AL, confirm that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Choosing the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select an HVAC trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Gulf Shores AL.