How to Pick the Right HVAC Certificate Program Near Gulf Shores Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Gulf Shores AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors 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 additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Gulf Shores Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Gulf Shores AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be 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 approach to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate 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 may be attended on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Gulf Shores AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Gulf Shores and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is widely 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Gulf Shores AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged 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 offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory 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 could be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Schools
Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Gulf Shores AL area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Gulf Shores AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 may signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Gulf Shores AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Gulf Shores AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Gulf Shores AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Gulf Shores AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gulf Shores AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to choose an Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on 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 speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Gulf Shores AL.