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How to Pick the Best HVAC Vocational School Near Saraland Alabama

Saraland Alabama commercial hvac tech repairing furnacesOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Saraland AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion 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 within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Saraland Alabama home air conditioning condensers

There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Saraland Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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 right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Saraland AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Saraland Alabama central heating registerAttending an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number 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 via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Saraland AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Saraland and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous 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 online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is extensively 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 professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Saraland AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned 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 professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For HVAC Certification Classes

Saraland Alabama hvac technician working on water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Saraland AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Saraland AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 Saraland AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Saraland AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Saraland AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Saraland AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may 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 monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience 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 handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Saraland AL, confirm that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Saraland HVAC Tech Schools

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Picking the ideal HVAC training program is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this post, you need to pick an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Saraland AL.


 

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