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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Homewood Alabama

Homewood Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Homewood AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Homewood Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Homewood AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two 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 in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

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There are several choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Homewood AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, some degrees include 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 traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Homewood AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Homewood AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Homewood and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities 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 busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Schools

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As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Homewood AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Homewood AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 may signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high 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 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 also that it has the network of Homewood AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Homewood AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable 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 equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Homewood AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Homewood AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized 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 see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Homewood AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Homewood HVAC Training In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Homewood AL.