How to Choose the Best Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Princeton Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Princeton AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation 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 in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a variety of alternatives 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 lesser period of time, often accomplished in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Princeton 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 job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees incorporate 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Princeton AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most 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 as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Princeton AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Princeton and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Princeton AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Following 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 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Classes
As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Princeton AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Princeton AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Princeton AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Princeton AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Princeton AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Princeton AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and learn 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 reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Princeton AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out 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 right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this post, you should select an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if night 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 outlined in our checklist for comparing 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 commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Princeton AL.