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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Albertville Alabama

Albertville Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Albertville AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant concerns, 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 criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Albertville Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Albertville AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, 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 wish to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Albertville Alabama home heat pump

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, however 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 might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Albertville AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards 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 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 future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Albertville AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete 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 remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Albertville AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Albertville and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

Albertville Alabama Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Albertville AL area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Albertville AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high 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 use 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 field, but additionally that it has the network of Albertville AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Albertville AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Albertville AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Albertville AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Albertville AL, check that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Albertville HVAC Training Programs Near You

Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Albertville AL.