How to Enroll In the Best Heating and Cooling Training Class Near Oxford Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Oxford AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually completed in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Oxford Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Oxford AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Oxford AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Oxford and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry 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 generally required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Oxford AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Oxford AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Oxford AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Oxford AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical 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 working relationships with local Oxford AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Oxford AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some 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 regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Oxford AL, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Finding the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select an HVAC school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating 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 dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Oxford AL.