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How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Enterprise Alabama

Enterprise Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Enterprise AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many future students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors 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 discussed 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 air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Enterprise Alabama HVAC Tech servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Enterprise AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.

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

Considering that licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC vocational 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 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Enterprise Alabama home heat pump

There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Enterprise AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Enterprise AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Enterprise AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Enterprise and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Enterprise Alabama HVAC tech servicing water heater

As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Enterprise AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Enterprise AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also signify that the teachers were not competent 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 graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize 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 field, but also that it has the network of Enterprise AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Enterprise AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Enterprise AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Enterprise AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Enterprise AL, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Enterprise HVAC Trade Schools In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Enterprise AL.