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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama commercial hvac contractor installing furnacesNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Northport AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near 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 investigate 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 tackle how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Northport Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are several options offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify 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 edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Northport Al.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 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 suited more for 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to 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 getting some experience in the field in Northport AL, later going back to acquire 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 registerChoosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Northport AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Northport and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Northport AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

What to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Courses

Northport Alabama hvac technician replacing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Northport AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Northport AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified 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 directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Northport AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Northport AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Northport AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Northport AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with 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 fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Northport AL, check that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Northport HVAC Training Classes

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this post, you need to choose an HVAC technical school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are ample hands-on 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 talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Northport AL.


 

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