How to Find the Best HVAC Program Near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Muscle Shoals AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things that you need to research are the graduation completion 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 examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Muscle Shoals Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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 based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Muscle Shoals AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly 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 in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Muscle Shoals AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Muscle Shoals and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Muscle Shoals AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists 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 mandated in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Certification Courses
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Muscle Shoals AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Muscle Shoals AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require 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 percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can 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 field, but also that it has the network of Muscle Shoals AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Muscle Shoals AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Muscle Shoals AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Muscle Shoals AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this post, you need to choose an HVAC technical school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Muscle Shoals AL.