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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling College near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce 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 Fairhope AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things 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 additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Fairhope Alabama HVAC Tech inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Fairhope AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below 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 proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians 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 location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Fairhope Alabama residential heat pump

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, often completed in just 6 months, though 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 may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Fairhope AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards 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 being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Fairhope AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure 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 alternative in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Fairhope AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Fairhope and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Fairhope Alabama HVAC technician repairing water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Fairhope AL area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Fairhope AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC 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 may suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors were not qualified 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 broader directory of graduates, which may result in 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 an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Fairhope AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Fairhope AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain 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, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Fairhope AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Fairhope AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise 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 go to classes at night or on weekends near Fairhope AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Fairhope Heating and Cooling Programs In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are plenty of 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 inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Fairhope AL.