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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Training Program near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Athens AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Athens Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business 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 skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Athens AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle 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 mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Schools

Athens Alabama home heater

There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Athens AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically 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 for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Athens AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Athens AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Athens and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Athens Alabama Heating and Cooling tech installing water heater

After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Athens AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Athens AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Athens AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional 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 in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Athens AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Athens AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe 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 regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools 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 Athens AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Athens HVAC Schools In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Athens AL.