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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama commercial hvac technician servicing furnacesOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade 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 potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Decatur Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually accomplished in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Decatur Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together 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, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Decatur Alabama central heating registerAttending an HVAC program online is one possibility to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Decatur AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Decatur and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Decatur AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

What to Ask HVAC Training Programs

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As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Decatur AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 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.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Decatur AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering 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 suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use 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 Decatur AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Decatur AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Decatur 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 Decatur AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Decatur HVAC Vocational Schools

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose an Heating and Cooling trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Decatur AL.


 

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