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How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Training near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Athens AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you need? Some future students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Athens Alabama HVAC Contractor servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Athens AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Following 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 proficiency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs 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.

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

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

Athens Alabama home heater

There are several options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Athens AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to finish, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Athens AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Athens AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Athens and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Training Programs

Athens Alabama HVAC tech servicing water heater

When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Athens AL area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Athens AL area have acquired 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 pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors 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 more extensive list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Athens AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Athens AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build 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 using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Athens AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Athens AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one 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 experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out 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 can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Athens AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Athens HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Choosing the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. 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 inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Athens AL.