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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Helena AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things 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. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Helena Alabama HVAC Tech servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Helena AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Helena Alabama home heater

There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Helena AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, some degrees incorporate 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, along with 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 acquiring some experience in the field in Helena AL, subsequently 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 Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Helena AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Helena and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Helena Alabama Heating and Cooling tech installing water heater

When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Helena AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Helena AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also 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 result in 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 additionally that it has the network of Helena AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training 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 within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Helena AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Helena AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Helena AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their opinions 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 have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Helena AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Helena Heating and Cooling Training Programs In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should 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. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. 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 proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Helena AL.