How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Smiths Station Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Smiths Station AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things 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 covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually 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 relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Smiths Station Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career objectives 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 trade in Smiths Station AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Smiths Station AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Smiths Station and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. 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, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Smiths Station AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can 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 examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs
Once you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Smiths Station AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Smiths Station AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm 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 make certain that you get a quality education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 complete the program. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader 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 will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Smiths Station AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Smiths Station AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Smiths Station AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Smiths Station AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Smiths Station AL, check that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this post, you should select an Heating and Cooling trade school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Smiths Station AL.