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

Florence Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Florence AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few 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 criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Florence Alabama HVAC Tech repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade 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 generally required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Florence AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade 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 achieved by passing a competency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to 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 specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Florence Alabama residential heating pump

There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often accomplished in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Florence AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees feature 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Florence AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Florence AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Florence and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Training Classes

Florence Alabama Heating and Cooling technician replacing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Florence AL area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Florence AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Florence AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Florence AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Florence AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Florence AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

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

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Florence AL, confirm that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Florence Heating and Cooling Courses In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Florence AL.