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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Program near Anniston Alabama

Anniston Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Anniston AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some 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. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Anniston Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Anniston AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

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There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually achieved in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each credential offered near Anniston AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as 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 field in Anniston AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one option in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Anniston AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Anniston and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many 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 HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

Questions For HVAC Schools

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Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Anniston AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Anniston AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher 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 employ 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 also that it has the network of Anniston AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Anniston AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical 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 trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Anniston AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Anniston AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

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

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Anniston AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Anniston Heating and Cooling Programs Near You

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Anniston AL.