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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Helena AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor

Helena Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Helena AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are available. 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 competency examination 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

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There are a variety of choices available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in as little as six 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 appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Helena AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, 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 four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Helena AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Helena AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Helena and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

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When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Helena AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Helena AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved 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 complete the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 additionally that it has the network of Helena AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Helena AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional 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 using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Helena AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Helena AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Helena Heating and Cooling Programs In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Finding the ideal HVAC school program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are ample hands-on 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 inspect the campus and talk 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 if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Helena AL.