How to Choose the Best Heating and Cooling Training Class Near Huntsville Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Huntsville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to obtain the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Huntsville Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, a number of 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 traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Huntsville AL, eventually 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 Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Huntsville AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Huntsville and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Huntsville AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs
As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Huntsville AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Huntsville AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require 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 complete the program. A low completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified 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 more extensive directory of graduates, which can result in 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 an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Huntsville AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Huntsville AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Huntsville AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Huntsville AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend 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 important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Huntsville AL, check that the programs you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should select an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit 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. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask 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 also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options 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 Huntsville AL.