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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Trade School Near Hartselle Alabama

Hartselle Alabama commercial hvac tech installing furnacesOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Hartselle AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Hartselle Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically completed in as little as 6 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 applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Hartselle Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even 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 study how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Hartselle AL, subsequently returning to earn 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 Online Classes

Hartselle Alabama central heating registerAttending an HVAC school online is one possibility in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also provide 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 attended online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Hartselle AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Hartselle and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Hartselle AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the field that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several 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.

Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions to Ask HVAC Schools

Hartselle Alabama hvac tech working on water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Hartselle AL area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Hartselle AL area have earned 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 instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may mean 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Hartselle AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Hartselle AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Hartselle AL HVAC contractor 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 Hartselle AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Hartselle AL, verify that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Hartselle HVAC Training Courses

Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate

Selecting the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this post, you should choose an HVAC trade school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing 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 eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Hartselle AL.


 

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