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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program Near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama commercial hvac technician installing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Birmingham AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details 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 covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

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There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some programs 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 might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Birmingham Al.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, some 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 or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Birmingham AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Birmingham Alabama forced air heat registerChoosing an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Birmingham AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Birmingham and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Birmingham AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam 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 field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For HVAC Schools

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When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Birmingham AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables 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 trade programs in the Birmingham AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Birmingham AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Birmingham AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school 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, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Birmingham AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Birmingham AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that the schools you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Birmingham HVAC Schools

Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate

Choosing the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this post, you need to select an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour 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. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Birmingham AL.


 

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