How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Program Near Sylacauga Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Sylacauga AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things 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 other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Sylacauga Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c 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 suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Sylacauga AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Sylacauga AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Sylacauga and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, 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. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Sylacauga AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Courses
As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Sylacauga AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Sylacauga 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 pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved 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 lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also mean that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Sylacauga AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Sylacauga AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Sylacauga AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Sylacauga AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger 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 teachers. Speak with several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Sylacauga AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Finding the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this post, you should choose an HVAC school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search 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 tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, 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 as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Sylacauga AL.