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How to Find the Right HVAC College near Dixiana Alabama

Dixiana Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Dixiana AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things 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 benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Dixiana Alabama HVAC Tech inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Dixiana AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Courses

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There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically completed in as little as six months, though some courses 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 for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Dixiana AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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 based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Dixiana AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Dixiana AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Dixiana and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Dixiana Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor replacing water heater

When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Dixiana AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Dixiana AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course 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 might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Dixiana AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Dixiana AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Dixiana AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Dixiana AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Dixiana AL, check that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Dixiana Heating and Cooling Courses In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. 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 check out 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching 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 assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Dixiana AL.