How to Choose the Right HVAC Vocational School Near Meadowbrook Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Meadowbrook AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details 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 within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are a number of options available 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, often achieved in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Meadowbrook Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, many 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Meadowbrook AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one approach in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Meadowbrook AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Meadowbrook and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Meadowbrook AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few 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 exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For HVAC Trade Schools
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Meadowbrook AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Meadowbrook AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved 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 course. A lower completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list 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 affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Meadowbrook AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Meadowbrook AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding 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 tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Meadowbrook AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Meadowbrook AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Meadowbrook AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should select an HVAC school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not 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 appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Meadowbrook AL.