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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Bessemer Alabama

Bessemer Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Bessemer AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Bessemer Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Bessemer AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several 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 recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional 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 result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Bessemer Alabama residential heater

There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, although 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 can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Bessemer AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Bessemer AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Bessemer AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Bessemer and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Bessemer Alabama HVAC contractor installing water heater

After you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Bessemer AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Bessemer AL area have attained 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, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Bessemer AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Bessemer AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools 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, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Bessemer AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Bessemer AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher 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 challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Bessemer AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Bessemer HVAC Schools In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Bessemer AL.