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How to Pick the Right HVAC Training Program near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Fairhope AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you require? Many potential students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are significant considerations, 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 benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Fairhope Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Fairhope AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. 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. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that 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 prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Fairhope Alabama residential heater

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, though 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 training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation 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 provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Fairhope AL, subsequently going back to acquire 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 Courses

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many 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 participated in via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for many Fairhope AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Fairhope and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Fairhope Alabama Heating and Cooling technician replacing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Fairhope AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Fairhope AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Fairhope AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Fairhope AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Fairhope AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairhope AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive 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 instructors and students. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm 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 Fairhope AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Fairhope HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC training course is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person 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, ask about scheduling choices and if 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 appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Fairhope AL.