How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. 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 additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training 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 minimum period of time, typically achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Tuscaloosa Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of 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 conventional 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.
Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your future career objectives 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 Tuscaloosa 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 considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach in getting your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Tuscaloosa AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Tuscaloosa and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Tuscaloosa AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. 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 earned by passing a proficiency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Training Classes
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local 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 using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback regarding 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 hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, check that the schools you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the right HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed in this post, you should select an Heating and Cooling trade school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices 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 proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options 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 Tuscaloosa AL.