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How to Select the Right HVAC Training Program near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Decatur AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details 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. These and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Decatur Alabama HVAC Contractor fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade 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 commonly required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Decatur AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

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There are several alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, though some courses 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 advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Decatur AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, some 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Decatur AL, eventually going back to earn 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 Online Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Decatur AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Decatur and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

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When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Decatur AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Decatur AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 finish the program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Decatur AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational 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 businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Decatur AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Decatur AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Decatur AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, check that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Decatur HVAC Schools Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should select 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 search for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Decatur AL.