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How to Select the Right HVAC Certification Course Near Alexander City Alabama

Alexander City Alabama commercial hvac technician installing furnacesNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Alexander City AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some 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 other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Alexander City Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are several options offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Alexander City Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, a number of 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 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 based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Alexander City AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Alexander City Alabama forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Alexander City AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Alexander City and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Alexander City AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few 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 can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Alexander City Alabama hvac technician installing hot water heater

When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Alexander City AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Alexander City AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may mean 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 a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Alexander City AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Alexander City AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Alexander City AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Alexander City AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Alexander City AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Alexander City HVAC Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this post, you need to choose an HVAC trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember 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 filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Alexander City AL.


 

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