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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Alabaster AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Some potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other things 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 additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor

Alabaster Alabama HVAC Contractor servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Alabaster AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Alabaster Alabama home heater

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically completed in as little as six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Alabaster AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to being taught 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, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Alabaster AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Alabaster AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Alabaster and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Alabaster Alabama HVAC contractor installing water heater

After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Alabaster AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Alabaster AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order 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 of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ 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 additionally that it has the network of Alabaster AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Alabaster AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Alabaster AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Alabaster AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Alabaster AL, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Alabaster Heating and Cooling Courses Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally 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 instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Alabaster AL.