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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Dothan Alabama

Dothan Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Dothan AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Dothan Alabama HVAC Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Dothan AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Dothan Alabama residential heater

There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually completed in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Dothan AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, many degrees include 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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 appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and money 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 trade in Dothan AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one possibility to attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Dothan AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Dothan and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Dothan Alabama Heating and Cooling technician repairing water heater

After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Dothan AL area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Dothan AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved 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 complete the course. A low completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Dothan AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Dothan AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Dothan AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Dothan AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Dothan AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

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

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select 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 things to look for are lots of hands-on 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 speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not night 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 appropriate 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 educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Dothan AL.