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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama commercial hvac tech servicing furnacesNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Opelika AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details 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. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Opelika Alabama home A/C condensers

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often accomplished in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Opelika Al.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to complete, a number of 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Opelika AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Opelika Alabama forced air heat registerChoosing an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Opelika AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Opelika and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate 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 techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Opelika AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For Heating and Cooling Certification Courses

Opelika Alabama hvac tech working on hot water heater

Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Opelika AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Opelika AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce 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 field, but also that it has the network of Opelika AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Opelika AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Opelika AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise 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 handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Opelika AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make 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 Opelika HVAC Training Classes

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have covered in this post, you need to select an Heating and Cooling trade school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Opelika AL.


 

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