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How to Find the Right HVAC Vocational School Near Phenix City Alabama

Phenix City Alabama commercial hvac tech installing furnacesOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few 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 other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

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There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually achieved in as little as six months, however some programs 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 can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Phenix City Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally 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 tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 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 dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Phenix City AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Phenix City Alabama central heating registerEnrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Phenix City AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Phenix City and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Phenix City AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to 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 various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For Heating and Cooling Training Programs

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Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Phenix City AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Phenix City AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can produce 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 additionally that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship 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 considering have referring partnerships with local Phenix City AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Phenix City AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Phenix City AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Phenix City HVAC Tech Schools

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate

Selecting the right HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this post, you should select an HVAC technical school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Phenix City AL.


 

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