How to Pick the Right HVAC Certificate Program Near Prichard Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Prichard AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to get the training that you need? A number of future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are several choices available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, often completed in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Prichard 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 trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, some degrees feature 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Prichard AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Prichard AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Prichard and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of 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, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Prichard AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For HVAC Certification Classes
When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Prichard AL area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Prichard AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved 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 course. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly essential 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 Prichard AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Prichard AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Prichard AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Prichard AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make 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 due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Finding the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick an HVAC technical school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Prichard AL.