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How to Choose the Best Heating and Cooling Training Class Near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama commercial hvac technician repairing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Muscle Shoals AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to get the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to research 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 addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree Classes

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There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, often achieved in just 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Muscle Shoals Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Muscle Shoals AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Muscle Shoals Alabama forced air heat registerAttending an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also sponsor 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 via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Muscle Shoals AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Muscle Shoals and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade 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 typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Muscle Shoals AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required 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 various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For HVAC Schools

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Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Muscle Shoals AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Muscle Shoals AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing 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 might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified 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 graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Muscle Shoals AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Muscle Shoals AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Muscle Shoals AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Muscle Shoals AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving 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 bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Muscle Shoals HVAC Trade Schools

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this post, you should choose an Heating and Cooling school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined 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 right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Muscle Shoals AL.


 

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