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How to Choose the Best Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Clay Alabama

Clay Alabama commercial hvac contractor installing furnacesNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Clay AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be discussed 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 a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Degree Classes

Clay Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are several options available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, although some programs 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 might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Clay Al.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, a number of 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 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Clay AL, subsequently returning to earn 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 Online Courses

Clay Alabama forced air heat registerAttending an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Clay AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Clay and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy 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 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, though each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Clay AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, 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 wish to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For HVAC Training Classes

Clay Alabama hvac technician working on water heater

After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Clay AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Clay AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school 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 obtain a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Clay AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade 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 contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Clay AL HVAC companies. 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 tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Clay AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Clay AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Clay AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Clay HVAC Tech Schools

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select an HVAC vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Clay AL.


 

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