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How to Pick the Best Heating and Cooling Trade School Near Atmore Alabama

Atmore Alabama commercial hvac contractor servicing furnacesOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Atmore AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Atmore Alabama home A/C condensers

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Atmore Al.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Atmore AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Atmore Alabama forced air heat registerAttending an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Atmore AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Atmore and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Atmore AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

What to Ask Heating and Cooling Schools

Atmore Alabama hvac contractor working on water heater

After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Atmore AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Atmore AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive 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 certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Atmore AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Atmore AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Atmore AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Atmore AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized instruction 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 large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Atmore AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Atmore HVAC Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate

Picking the right HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this post, you need to choose an Heating and Cooling technical school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You should go to 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 training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 technician in Atmore AL.


 

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