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How to Select the Right HVAC Training Class near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Florence AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you require? Some future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Florence Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Florence AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the field that are offered. 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 attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Florence Alabama residential heat pump

There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, however some programs 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 might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Florence AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically 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 conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources 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 tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Florence AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Florence and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments 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.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Florence Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor repairing water heater

When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Florence AL area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Florence AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use 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 Florence AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out 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 supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Florence AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Florence AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving 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 monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers 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 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 provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Florence Heating and Cooling Training Classes In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the ideal HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should visit 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 training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options 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 as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Florence AL.