How to Find the Best Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Montgomery Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Montgomery AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered 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 cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically achieved in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Montgomery Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Montgomery AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Montgomery AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Montgomery and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Montgomery AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam 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 together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Certification Classes
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Montgomery AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Montgomery AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify 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 low completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to use 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Montgomery AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Montgomery AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment 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 instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Montgomery AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Montgomery AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise 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 fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Montgomery AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Picking the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this post, you should select an Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Montgomery AL.