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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling College near Albertville Alabama

Albertville Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Albertville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you require? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors 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 criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Albertville Alabama HVAC Tech inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Albertville AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Classes

Albertville Alabama residential heater

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Albertville AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for 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.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Albertville AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Albertville AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Albertville and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities 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 hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Albertville Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor servicing water heater

After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Albertville AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Albertville AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive 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 program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved 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 complete the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Albertville AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Albertville AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides 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 using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Albertville AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Albertville AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

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

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Albertville AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Find Out More About Albertville HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. 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 proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Albertville AL.