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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Helena AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you need? Many future students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors 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. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Helena Alabama HVAC Tech servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Helena AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, 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 desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Schools

Helena Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Helena AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Helena 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 Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility to attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most 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 as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Helena AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Helena and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

Helena Alabama Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Helena AL area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Helena AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning 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 low completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive 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 will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Helena AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Helena AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Helena AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Helena AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Helena AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Helena HVAC Schools Near You

Get Your HVAC Training and Certification

Picking the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Helena AL.