How to Choose the Right HVAC Trade School Near Meadowbrook Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Meadowbrook AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things 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 training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Meadowbrook Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Meadowbrook 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 Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Meadowbrook AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Meadowbrook and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Meadowbrook AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions For HVAC Training Programs
Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Meadowbrook AL area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Meadowbrook AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a quality 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 course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It could also suggest 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 broader list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Meadowbrook AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Meadowbrook AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Meadowbrook AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Meadowbrook AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees 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 larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some 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 meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Meadowbrook AL, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Finding the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this post, you need to pick an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Meadowbrook AL.