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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Dothan Alabama

Dothan Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Dothan AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor

Dothan Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Dothan AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the industry that are available. Following are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 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 necessary for technicians that handle 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 might be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Dothan Alabama home heater

There are several choices offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often achieved in as little as six months, although 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 might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Dothan AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as 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 right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Dothan AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility to getting your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Dothan AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Dothan and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Dothan Alabama Heating and Cooling tech installing water heater

After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Dothan AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Dothan AL area have attained 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, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a superior education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Dothan AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Dothan AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Dothan AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Dothan AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher 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 bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Dothan AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Dothan Heating and Cooling Courses Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Choosing the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed 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 commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Dothan AL.