How to Pick the Right HVAC Training Class Near Oxford Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Oxford AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you need? Some potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors 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 other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually 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 applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Oxford Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, some degrees include 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 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Oxford AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one option to getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also provide 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 attended via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for some Oxford AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Oxford and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
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, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Oxford AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. 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 attained 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Classes
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Oxford AL area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational schools in the Oxford AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential 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 confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Oxford AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Oxford AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting 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 may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Oxford AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed in this post, you need to choose an HVAC trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally 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. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if night 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 assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Oxford AL.