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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC College near Anniston Alabama

Anniston Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Anniston AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many future students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant factors to consider, 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 other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Anniston Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Anniston AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three 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 specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Courses

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There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Anniston AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards 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.

Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Anniston AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Attending an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Anniston AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Anniston and study materials can be reduced, 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, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

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Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Anniston AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Anniston AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program 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 an excellent education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often 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 Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion 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 suggest that the instructors were not competent to train 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 list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Anniston AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction 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 HVAC contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Anniston AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Anniston AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Anniston AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized instruction 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 instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Anniston AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Anniston Heating and Cooling Courses Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect 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, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating 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 specialist in Anniston AL.