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How to Select the Best HVAC Training Program Near Calera Alabama

Calera Alabama commercial hvac technician installing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Calera AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you require? Many potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

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There are several choices available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Calera Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to finish, many degrees incorporate 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 traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Calera AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Calera Alabama central heating registerAttending an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor 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 participated in via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for many Calera AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Calera and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Calera AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few 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 proficiency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For Heating and Cooling Training Classes

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When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Calera AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Calera AL area have attained 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 relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm 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 get an excellent education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Calera AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship 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 comparing have referring relationships with local Calera AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently 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 Calera AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Calera AL home. Remember 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 desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Calera AL, check that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Calera HVAC Schools

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select an Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Calera AL.


 

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