How to Select the Best HVAC Certificate Program Near Midfield Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Midfield AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details that you need to investigate 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 in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Midfield Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, a number of 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Midfield AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some 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 participated in online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Midfield AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Midfield and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Midfield AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire 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 handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs
After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, 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 technical schools in the Midfield AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Midfield AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Midfield AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Midfield AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Midfield AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Midfield AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Midfield AL, check that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal 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 select an Heating and Cooling trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Midfield AL.