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How to Pick the Right HVAC College near Center Point Alabama

Center Point Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Center Point AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors 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. These and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Center Point Alabama HVAC Contractor inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Center Point AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Center Point Alabama home heating pump

There are several options offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical 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 as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Center Point AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, many degrees feature 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Center Point AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Center Point AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Center Point and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous 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 more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

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After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Center Point AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade schools in the Center Point AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is 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 obtain a superior education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct 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 directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Center Point AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Center Point AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Center Point AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Center Point AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Center Point AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Center Point HVAC Training In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak 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 night 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 detailed in our checklist for evaluating 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 professional in Center Point AL.