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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class Near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama commercial hvac tech servicing furnacesOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Southside AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate 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 within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Southside Alabama home A/C condensers

There are several choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Southside Al.

  • Certificate. Normally 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 knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even 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.

Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Southside AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Southside Alabama forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Southside AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Southside and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Southside AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. 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 obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Southside Alabama hvac technician replacing water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Southside AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Southside AL area have earned 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 an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 program. A low completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent 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 more extensive list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Southside AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

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

Modern Facilities.  Confirm 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Southside AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Southside AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Southside AL, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Southside HVAC Tech Schools

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate

Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this post, you need to choose an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Southside AL.


 

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