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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Anniston Alabama

Anniston Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Anniston AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Anniston Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Anniston AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

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There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, often accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Anniston AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited 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 cooling 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 commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Anniston AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Anniston AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Anniston and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions For HVAC Training Programs

Anniston Alabama HVAC technician installing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, 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 trade schools in the Anniston AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Anniston AL area have earned 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 an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order 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 course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Anniston AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Anniston AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm 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 specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Anniston AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Anniston AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may 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 larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and find out 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 are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Anniston AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Anniston HVAC Training Programs Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Anniston AL.