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How to Choose the Right HVAC Training Program Near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama commercial hvac technician servicing furnacesOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Southside AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Southside Alabama home air conditioning condensers

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically completed in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Southside Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 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 geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money 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 trade in Southside AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Southside Alabama forced air heat registerAttending an HVAC school online is one alternative in attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in online, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Southside AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Southside and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Southside AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Southside Alabama hvac contractor replacing hot water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Southside AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Southside AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Southside AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Southside AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools 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, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Southside AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Southside AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and find out 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 can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Southside AL, check that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Southside HVAC Vocational Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the ideal HVAC training course is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this post, you should choose an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate 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 appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Southside AL.


 

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