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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Foley Alabama

Foley Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Foley AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors that you need to research 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 discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Foley Alabama HVAC Tech repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Foley AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Schools

Foley Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Foley AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to finish, many 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 traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Foley AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Foley AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Foley and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Foley Alabama Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Foley AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Foley AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves 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 acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning 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 program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Foley AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational 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 trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Foley AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Foley AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Foley AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Foley AL, check that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Foley Heating and Cooling Schools In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. 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 profession. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Foley AL.