How to Pick the Best Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Helena Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Helena AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things 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. These and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most 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 provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Helena Al.
- Certificate. Usually 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 employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards 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 learn how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Helena AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Helena AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Helena 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 less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.
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 techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Helena AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Below 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 makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Helena AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Helena AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire 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 school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many 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 course. A low completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Helena AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Helena AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Helena AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Helena AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this post, you should select an Heating and Cooling technical school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Helena AL.