How to Select the Best Heating and Cooling School Near Sheffield Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Sheffield AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the right one to receive the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just 6 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 relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Sheffield Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as 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 ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Sheffield AL, eventually 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 Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most 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 remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Sheffield AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Sheffield and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many 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 accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Sheffield AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians 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 may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Sheffield AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Sheffield AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order 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 of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Sheffield AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Sheffield AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Sheffield AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Sheffield AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure 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 Sheffield AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this post, you should choose an HVAC school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Sheffield AL.