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How to Choose the Right HVAC School Near Clay Alabama

Clay Alabama commercial hvac contractor installing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Clay AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Clay Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often achieved in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Clay Al.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate 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 study how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together with 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 gaining some experience in the field in Clay AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Clay Alabama forced air heat registerChoosing an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Clay AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Clay and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of 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, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central 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 criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Clay AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned 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. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions to Ask HVAC Schools

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Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Clay AL area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Clay AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Clay AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Clay AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Clay AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Clay AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Clay AL, check 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 allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Clay HVAC Schools

Get Your HVAC Degree or Certificate

Selecting the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you should select an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Clay AL.


 

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