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How to Choose the Best HVAC Program Near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama commercial hvac tech installing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Northport AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other details 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 criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Degree Courses

Northport Alabama residential air conditioning condensers

There are several alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually completed in as little as six months, although some programs 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 may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Northport Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, some 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Northport AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Northport Alabama forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Northport AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Northport and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps 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 industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Northport AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. 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 offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Classes

Northport Alabama hvac technician installing hot water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you want to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Northport AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Northport AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire 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. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to use 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Northport AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade 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 contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Northport AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment 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, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Northport AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Northport AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Northport AL, verify that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, 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 Northport HVAC Training Programs

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate

Picking the right HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose an HVAC vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Northport AL.


 

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