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How to Select the Best Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Foley Alabama

Foley Alabama commercial hvac contractor servicing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Foley AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their decision 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 take into account. A few of the other things 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. These and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Foley Alabama home A/C condensers

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of 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 extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Foley Al.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Foley AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Foley Alabama forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also offer 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 on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for some Foley AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Foley 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 job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Foley AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be acquired 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 must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Foley Alabama hvac technician repairing water heater

Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Foley AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Foley AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify 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 complete the program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train 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 list of graduates, which may produce 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 additionally that it has the network of Foley AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Foley AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on 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 instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Foley AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Foley AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable 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 observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm 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 Foley AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Foley HVAC Vocational Schools

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak 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, inquire about scheduling options and if evening 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 laid out 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 appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Foley AL.


 

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