How to Choose the Right HVAC Vocational School Near Sylacauga Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational 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? A number of prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some 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. These and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Sylacauga Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to finish, some degrees feature 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 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.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Sylacauga AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Sylacauga AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Sylacauga and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Sylacauga AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Sylacauga AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Sylacauga AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Sylacauga AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Sylacauga AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Sylacauga AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Sylacauga AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Sylacauga AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick an HVAC training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Sylacauga AL.