How to Select the Best HVAC School Near Phenix City Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? Some future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Phenix City Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally 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 geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught 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 objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Phenix City AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Phenix City AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Phenix City and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic schedule.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Phenix City AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Phenix City AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Phenix City AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn 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 approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct 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 list of alumni, 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 an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Phenix City AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Phenix City AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Phenix City AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Finding the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select an HVAC training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Phenix City AL.