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How to Find the Right HVAC Program near Dothan Alabama

Dothan Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Dothan AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some 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. Those and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Dothan Alabama HVAC Contractor inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Dothan AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as 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. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Courses

Dothan Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Dothan AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught 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 long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Dothan AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Dothan AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Dothan and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Dothan Alabama HVAC technician replacing water heater

When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Dothan AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Dothan AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a quality education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Dothan AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Dothan AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Dothan AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Dothan AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased 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 see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Dothan AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Dothan Heating and Cooling Programs Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit 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 training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist 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 commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Dothan AL.