How to Choose the Best Heating and Cooling Vocational School Near Smiths Station Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Smiths Station AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you require? Many potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things 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 benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Smiths Station Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two 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 towards 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 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 dependent on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Smiths Station AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate 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 may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Smiths Station AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Smiths Station and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Smiths Station AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions For HVAC Training Programs
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Smiths Station AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Smiths Station AL area have attained 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, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Smiths Station AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Smiths Station AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form 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 on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Smiths Station AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Smiths Station AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Smiths Station AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this post, you should select an Heating and Cooling trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Smiths Station AL.