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How to Pick the Right HVAC College near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Alabaster Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Alabaster AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here 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 competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Schools

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There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often completed in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Alabaster AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, many degrees incorporate 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Alabaster AL, eventually returning to obtain 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 school online is one option to getting your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for some Alabaster AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Alabaster and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Alabaster Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor replacing water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Alabaster AL area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Alabaster AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational 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 companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Alabaster AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local 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 working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Alabaster AL residence. 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 desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging 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 experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors 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 programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Alabaster AL, check that the schools you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Alabaster HVAC Schools Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk 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 available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Alabaster AL.