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How to Pick the Right HVAC Training Class near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Athens AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to get the training that you need? Some potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some 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 other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Athens Alabama HVAC Tech fixing A/C 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 skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Athens AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Athens Alabama residential heating pump

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Athens AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as 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 air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be based 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 gaining some experience in the trade in Athens AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Athens AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Athens and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Athens Alabama HVAC technician servicing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Athens AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Athens AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade 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 hands-on training, but it also furnishes job 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 using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Athens AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Athens AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Athens AL, verify that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Athens Heating and Cooling Courses In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Athens AL.