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How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling College near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation 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 discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Alabaster Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Alabaster AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be received 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 needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three 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 mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Alabaster Alabama home heating pump

There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically completed in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Alabaster AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require 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 learn how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources 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 field in Alabaster AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Alabaster AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Alabaster and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Alabaster Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor installing water heater

Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Alabaster AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Alabaster AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at 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 disappointed with the program and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational 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 Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Alabaster AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Alabaster AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify 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 Alabaster AL, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Alabaster Heating and Cooling Training Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Alabaster AL.