How to Enroll In the Best Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Valley Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Valley AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are important considerations, 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 benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a number 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 amount of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Valley Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide 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 cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to finish, a number of degrees include 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 four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Valley AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for many Valley AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Valley and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Valley AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs
After you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Valley AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is essential 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 look at. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Valley AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Valley AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Valley AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides 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 trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Valley AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Valley AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized training 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 see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Valley AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this post, you need to select an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk 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 whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices 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 Valley AL.