How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Madison Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Madison AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important factors to consider, 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. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Madison Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to finish, many degrees include 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Madison AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for many Madison AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Madison and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Madison AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be acquired 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 as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to 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 offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Schools
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Madison AL area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Madison AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course 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 of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also mean that the instructors were not competent to train 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 directory of graduates, 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 confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Madison AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Madison AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Madison AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Madison AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers 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 programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Madison AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Finding the ideal HVAC school program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick an HVAC trade school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Madison AL.