How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn 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, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Tuscaloosa Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, a number of 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Tuscaloosa AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach in getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Tuscaloosa AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Tuscaloosa and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And many 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, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Tuscaloosa AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Tuscaloosa AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a quality education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory 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 field, but also that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs 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 Tuscaloosa AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Tuscaloosa AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one 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 teachers and students. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm 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 offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Finding the right HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this post, you need to choose an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Tuscaloosa AL.