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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Florence AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. 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. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Florence Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor 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 typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Florence AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and can 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed 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 necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Florence Alabama home heater

There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Florence AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees include 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, along with 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 trade in Florence AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Florence AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Florence and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Florence Alabama Heating and Cooling technician servicing water heater

After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Florence AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Florence AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Florence AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Florence AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area 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 working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Florence AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Florence AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Florence AL, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Florence Heating and Cooling Training Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to 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 things to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Florence AL.