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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program Near Calera Alabama

Calera Alabama commercial hvac technician repairing furnacesNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Calera AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Calera Alabama home A/C condensers

There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically completed in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description 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 furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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 right credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with 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 Calera AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Calera Alabama forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number 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 on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Calera AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Calera and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of 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 online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Calera AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Classes

Calera Alabama hvac tech repairing hot water heater

Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Calera AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Calera AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning 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 signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Calera AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction 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 HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Calera AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools 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 technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Calera AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Calera AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Calera AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Calera HVAC Tech Schools

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this post, you should pick an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect 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. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Calera AL.


 

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