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How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Fairhope AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you require? Many potential students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Fairhope Alabama HVAC Technician inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Fairhope AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

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

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Fairhope Alabama home heat pump

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically accomplished in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Fairhope AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally 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 suited 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 being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Fairhope AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest 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 cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Fairhope and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Fairhope Alabama Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Fairhope AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Fairhope AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high 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 employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Fairhope AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Fairhope AL HVAC contractors. 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 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 with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Fairhope AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Fairhope AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Fairhope AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Fairhope HVAC Programs Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Fairhope AL.