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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling College near Center Point Alabama

Center Point Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Center Point AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary 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 additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Center Point Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Center Point AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Courses

Center Point Alabama home heat pump

There are several 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 lesser period of time, usually achieved in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate 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. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Center Point AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Center Point AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Center Point AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Center Point and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

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After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Center Point AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Center Point AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order 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 complete the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ 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 Center Point AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Center Point AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Center Point AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Center Point AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one 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 big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Center Point AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Center Point HVAC Training Classes Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose 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 search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether 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 right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Center Point AL.