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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Cullman Alabama

Cullman Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Cullman AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Cullman Alabama HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Cullman AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few 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 exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to 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. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Classes

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There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Cullman AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees include 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 standard 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 appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Cullman AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Cullman AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Cullman and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Schools

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Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Cullman AL area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Cullman AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain 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. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Cullman AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Cullman AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Cullman AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Cullman AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in 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 desirable that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Cullman AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Find Out More About Cullman Heating and Cooling Training Programs In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect 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 if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Cullman AL.