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How to Select the Right HVAC Certification Training 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 technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near East Florence AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the right one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details 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. Those and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

East Florence Alabama HVAC Contractor repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for East Florence AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

East Florence Alabama residential heating pump

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near East Florence AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in East Florence AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more practical solution for many East Florence AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from East Florence and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

East Florence Alabama Heating and Cooling tech repairing water heater

After you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the East Florence AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the East Florence AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, 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 Air Conditioning 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 program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not qualified 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 more extensive list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use 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 East Florence AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local East Florence AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local East Florence AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your East Florence AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near East Florence AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain 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 emergencies.

Find Out More About East Florence HVAC Training Classes Near You

Get Your HVAC Training and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should 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 features to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in East Florence AL.