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How to Find the Right HVAC School Near Meadowbrook Alabama

Meadowbrook Alabama commercial hvac technician installing furnacesOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Meadowbrook AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the right one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things 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. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

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There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Meadowbrook Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two 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 towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four 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 right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Meadowbrook AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Meadowbrook Alabama central heating registerEnrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Meadowbrook AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Meadowbrook and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business 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 professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Meadowbrook AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and can be acquired 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 together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Schools

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Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Meadowbrook AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Meadowbrook 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 a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent 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 list of graduates, which may result in 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 also that it has the network of Meadowbrook AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Meadowbrook AL HVAC specialists. 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 regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Meadowbrook AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Meadowbrook AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized 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 large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Meadowbrook AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Meadowbrook HVAC Training Classes

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the right HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this post, you need to choose an HVAC technical school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to 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 teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available 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 assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Meadowbrook AL.


 

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