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How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling School near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Decatur AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? Many future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Decatur Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Decatur AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the significant 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 may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Decatur Alabama residential heat pump

There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn 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 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Decatur AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to complete, some 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 or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 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.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Decatur AL, eventually 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 program online is one alternative to attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in 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 rest of the classes can be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Decatur AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Decatur and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Schools

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When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Decatur AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables 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 programs in the Decatur AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 low completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Decatur AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Decatur AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school 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, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Decatur AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Decatur AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Decatur AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Decatur HVAC Training Programs Near You

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore 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 options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Decatur AL.