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How to Choose the Right HVAC Program Near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama commercial hvac contractor repairing furnacesOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Decatur AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just 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. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Degree Classes

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There are a variety of choices offered 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 least amount of time, typically completed in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Decatur Al.

  • Certificate. Normally 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 job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, many 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 or even 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.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Decatur AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Decatur Alabama forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Decatur AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Decatur and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Decatur AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. 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 proficiency exam and may 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 needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together 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 techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For Heating and Cooling Certification Classes

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As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Decatur AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Decatur AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could 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 broader directory of graduates, 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 affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Decatur AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Decatur AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Decatur AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Decatur AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Decatur AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Decatur HVAC Training Courses

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick an Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person 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. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Decatur AL.


 

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