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How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Class near Bessemer Alabama

Bessemer Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Bessemer AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to get the training that you need? Many potential students will make their choice based exclusively 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 investigate. Some of the other factors 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. These and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Bessemer Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Bessemer AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.

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

Since licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Bessemer Alabama residential heating pump

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training 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 lesser period of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Bessemer AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Bessemer AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Bessemer AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Bessemer and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Bessemer Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection 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 select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Bessemer AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify 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 indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may 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 additionally that it has the network of Bessemer AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing 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 furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Bessemer AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Bessemer AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Bessemer AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Bessemer HVAC Schools Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick 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 things to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Bessemer AL.