How to Pick the Best HVAC Trade School Near Hartselle Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Hartselle AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. 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 additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Hartselle Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Hartselle AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Hartselle AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Hartselle and study supplies may 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 obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Hartselle AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required 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.
Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Schools
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Hartselle AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Hartselle 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 an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Hartselle AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Hartselle AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Hartselle AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Hartselle AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can 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 larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Hartselle AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide 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 protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Hartselle AL.