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How to Select the Best Heating and Cooling School Near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama commercial hvac technician installing furnacesNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Alabaster Alabama residential air conditioning condensers

There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Alabaster Al.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally 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 geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require 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 study how to design them.

Choosing 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 possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Alabaster AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Alabaster Alabama central heating registerChoosing an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require 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 participated in via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Alabaster AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Alabaster and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy schedule.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business 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 skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Alabaster AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry 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 achieved by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, 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 earn certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Alabaster Alabama hvac technician repairing hot water heater

When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Alabaster AL area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Alabaster AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not qualified 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 can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will 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 students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Alabaster AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools 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, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Alabaster AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Alabaster AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Alabaster HVAC Trade Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this post, you need to choose an HVAC technical school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Alabaster AL.


 

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