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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Trade School Near Center Point Alabama

Center Point Alabama commercial hvac contractor installing furnacesOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Center Point AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Center Point Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical 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 achieved in as little as six months, however some courses 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 training programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Center Point Al.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature 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 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.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Center Point AL, later going back to earn 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 Schools

Center Point Alabama forced air heat registerChoosing an HVAC school online is one approach in attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Center Point AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Center Point and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Center Point AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For Heating and Cooling Trade Schools

Center Point Alabama hvac technician replacing water heater

When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Center Point AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Center Point AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you acquire a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 course. A low completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent 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 more extensive directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Center Point AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Center Point AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Center Point AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Center Point AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can 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 monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Center Point AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Center Point HVAC Schools

Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate

Picking the ideal HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this post, you need to select an Heating and Cooling technical school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are ample 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 explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined 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 right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Center Point AL.


 

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