How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Degree Program Near Irondale Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Irondale AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some 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. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Irondale Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, many 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Irondale AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one option in getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number 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 attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Irondale AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Irondale and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Irondale AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are offered. Following are some 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 competency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions For HVAC Certification Courses
After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Irondale AL area and across the USA 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, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Irondale AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Irondale AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Irondale AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently 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 Irondale AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Irondale AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized 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 teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Irondale AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this post, you should pick an HVAC vocational school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Irondale AL.