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

Helena Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Helena AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Helena Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Helena AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved 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. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Helena Alabama home heat pump

There are several choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, often accomplished in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Helena AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as 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 air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Helena AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Helena AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Helena and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Helena Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

When you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Helena AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Helena AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a superior education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Helena AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Helena AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Helena AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also keep 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, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition fees 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 couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Helena Heating and Cooling Training Near You

Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Helena AL.