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How to Pick the Best HVAC Program Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama commercial hvac tech installing furnacesNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Athens AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Athens Alabama home A/C condensers

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Athens Al.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as 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.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Athens AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Athens Alabama forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Athens AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Athens and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Athens AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For Heating and Cooling Training Classes

Athens Alabama hvac tech installing hot water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Athens AL area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Athens AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also signify that the teachers 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 graduates, 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 validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Athens AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Athens AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Athens AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Athens AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. 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 protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Athens HVAC Vocational Schools

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should pick an HVAC technical school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore 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. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. 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 appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Athens AL.


 

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