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How to Choose the Best HVAC Trade School Near Spanish Fort Alabama

Spanish Fort Alabama commercial hvac contractor installing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Spanish Fort AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Spanish Fort Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically completed in just 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify 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 in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Spanish Fort Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, some 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Spanish Fort AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Spanish Fort Alabama central heating registerAttending an HVAC school online is one option in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Spanish Fort AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Spanish Fort and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs 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 online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Spanish Fort AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the important 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 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 exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions For Heating and Cooling Certification Courses

Spanish Fort Alabama hvac tech working on water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Spanish Fort AL area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Spanish Fort AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive 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 can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Spanish Fort AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Spanish Fort AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local 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. If not, ask a local Spanish Fort AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Spanish Fort AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized 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 big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Spanish Fort AL, verify that the programs you are comparing 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, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Spanish Fort HVAC Training Classes

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the right HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick 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 ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. 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 educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Spanish Fort AL.


 

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