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How to Enroll In the Best Heating and Cooling Vocational School Near Prattville Alabama

Prattville Alabama commercial hvac technician installing furnacesOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Prattville AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some 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 additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Prattville Alabama home A/C condensers

There are several choices available for HVAC instruction 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 just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Prattville 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 trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, some degrees incorporate 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 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 appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Prattville AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Prattville Alabama central heating registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Prattville AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Prattville and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.

Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Prattville AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required 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.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

Prattville Alabama hvac contractor working on water heater

Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Prattville AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Prattville AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain a superior education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC 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 course. A low completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent 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 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 can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Prattville AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Prattville AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school 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, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Prattville AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Prattville AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Prattville AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Prattville HVAC Tech Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick an Heating and Cooling trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit 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 training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 Prattville AL.


 

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