How to Pick an HVAC Certification Course near Alabaster Alabama
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC training program, let’s look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro in Alabaster AL
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly 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 professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Alabaster AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Here 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 exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it’s essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor’s Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Alabaster AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor’s Degree. The Bachelor’s Degree in HVAC is tailored more for 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Alabaster AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Alabaster AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Alabaster and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools 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 accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs near Alabaster AL
After 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 list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Alabaster AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That’s why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Alabaster AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school’s programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC 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 suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also suggest that the instructors 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 list of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade 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 inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Alabaster AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment 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 up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Alabaster AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It’s desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Alabaster AL, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Attending HVAC School near Alabaster AL?
Alabaster is a city and southern suburb of Birmingham in Shelby County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 30,352. According to the 2013 Census Estimates, the city had a population of 31,342. Alabaster is the 16th largest city in Alabama by number of residents.
Alabaster mostly occupies the Cahaba and Opossum Valleys, which are divided by the Pine Ridge that runs north to south. To the east and west, both valleys are flanked by parallel mountain ridges that locally run north to south, but are a part of a larger system of ridges that generally runs north-east to south-west (the tailing ends of the Appalachian foothills). The valleys are drained by small creeks (Buck Creek, Beaverdam Creek) which flow into the Cahaba River.
George L. Scott, Sr., an Alabaster pioneer, owned and operated Alabaster Lime Co. His shipping point was known as “Scott Rock.” Later, housing was built to accommodate some of the employees, and the community acquired its name Alabaster from the "white calcium carbonate mineral." The First Bank of Alabaster opened in 1952, and its president was George L. Scott, Jr., who later became the first mayor of Alabaster. The first attempt in 1952 to incorporate Alabaster failed. In January 1953, the petition was again filed, and on February 23, 1953, Alabaster was officially incorporated with a favorable vote of 79 to 23, and 427 residing inhabitants. In 1955, the Alabaster Water and Gas Board was formed.
Pick the Right HVAC Trade School near Alabaster AL
Picking the right HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this post, you should choose a vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are lots 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 inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available 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 guidelines for assessing schools, you’ll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Alabaster AL.
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