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

Bessemer Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Bessemer AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. 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 other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Bessemer Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Bessemer AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. 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 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 required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

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There are a variety of choices 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 least period of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Bessemer AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, a number of 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Bessemer AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Attending an HVAC program online is one approach to getting your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Bessemer AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Bessemer and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. 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 little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

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After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Bessemer AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Bessemer AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Bessemer AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Bessemer AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Bessemer AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Bessemer AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

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

Learn More About Bessemer Heating and Cooling Trade Schools In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Training and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing 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 eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Bessemer AL.