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How to Pick the Best Heating and Cooling Vocational School Near Spanish Fort Alabama

Spanish Fort Alabama commercial hvac technician repairing furnacesOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Spanish Fort AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few 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. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Spanish Fort Alabama residential A/C condensers

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Spanish Fort Al.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for 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.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Spanish Fort AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Spanish Fort Alabama central heating registerChoosing an HVAC school online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Spanish Fort AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Spanish Fort and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Spanish Fort AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency 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 professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

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Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Spanish Fort AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Spanish Fort AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Spanish Fort AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade programs are taught together 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 businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Spanish Fort AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date 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. If not, ask a local Spanish Fort AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Spanish Fort AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Spanish Fort AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Spanish Fort HVAC Training Classes

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate

Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose an Heating and Cooling school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Spanish Fort AL.


 

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