How to Find the Best HVAC School Near Madison Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Madison AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many future students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details 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 covered 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 technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Madison Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for 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 learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money 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 Madison AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide 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 participated in on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Madison AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Madison and study materials 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 work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Madison AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Trade Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Madison AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Madison AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain 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 program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize 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 field, but also that it has the network of Madison AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Madison AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Madison AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Madison AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult 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 teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Madison AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this post, you need to choose an HVAC training program 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 need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter 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 specialist in Madison AL.