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How to Select the Right HVAC School near East Florence Alabama

East Florence Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near East Florence AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Some potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion 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 examine how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

East Florence Alabama HVAC Contractor servicing 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, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for East Florence AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.

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

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

East Florence Alabama residential heating pump

There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often completed in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each credential offered near East Florence AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning 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 supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in East Florence AL, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option in attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in online, this approach may be a more practical solution for some East Florence AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from East Florence and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Training Programs

East Florence Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor repairing water heater

After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the East Florence AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the East Florence AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not competent to train 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 graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of East Florence AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local East Florence AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local East Florence AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your East Florence AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and learn 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 meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near East Florence AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About East Florence HVAC Schools In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour 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, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in East Florence AL.