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How to Pick the Best HVAC Trade School Near Oneonta Alabama

Oneonta Alabama commercial hvac technician repairing furnacesNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Oneonta AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree Classes

Oneonta Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically completed in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Oneonta Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Oneonta AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Oneonta Alabama forced air heat registerAttending an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Oneonta AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Oneonta and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Oneonta AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

What to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Classes

Oneonta Alabama hvac contractor working on hot water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Oneonta AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Oneonta AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a quality education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also mean 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 broader directory 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 will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Oneonta AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Oneonta AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Oneonta AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Oneonta AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees 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 big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Oneonta AL, check that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Oneonta HVAC Trade Schools

Get Your HVAC Degree or Certificate

Finding the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose an HVAC vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are lots of 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Oneonta AL.


 

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