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How to Pick the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Bessemer Alabama

Bessemer Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Bessemer AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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. Those and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Bessemer Alabama HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Bessemer AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some 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 received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple 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 other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Bessemer Alabama residential heater

There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Bessemer AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning 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 based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Bessemer AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Bessemer AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Bessemer and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Bessemer Alabama HVAC contractor servicing water heater

When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Bessemer AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Bessemer AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC 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 suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Bessemer AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

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

Modern Facilities.  Make certain 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 on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Bessemer AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Bessemer AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Bessemer AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Bessemer HVAC Training Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should 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 factors to search for are lots of 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 inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Bessemer AL.