How to Choose the Best HVAC Certification Course Near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Some future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Vestavia Hills Al.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, 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 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.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Vestavia Hills AL, eventually returning 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 Online Courses
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide 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 approach may be a more accessible solution for many Vestavia Hills AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Vestavia Hills and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments 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 schedule.
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 techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Vestavia Hills AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art 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 looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Vestavia Hills AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate
Picking the ideal HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this post, you need to select an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore 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, ask about scheduling choices and if 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 right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Vestavia Hills AL.