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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Homewood Alabama

Homewood Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Homewood AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors that you need to research 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 explore how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Homewood Alabama HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Homewood AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Following are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned 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. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Homewood Alabama residential heating pump

There are several alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Homewood AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential 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 detailed understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for 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 cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Homewood AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Homewood AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Homewood and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Homewood Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor repairing water heater

When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Homewood AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Homewood 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 relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also indicate that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Homewood AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Homewood AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Homewood AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Homewood AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and find out 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 assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Homewood AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Homewood HVAC Programs In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC school program is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Homewood AL.