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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certification Class near Homewood Alabama

Homewood Alabama residential A/C 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 vocational school near Homewood AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Homewood 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 technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Homewood AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few 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 acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Homewood Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically achieved 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 can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Homewood AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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 ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Homewood AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in 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 balance of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Homewood AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Homewood and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Homewood Alabama Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Homewood AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Homewood AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure 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 ensure that you receive a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers 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 broader list of alumni, which may 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Homewood AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

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

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning 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 able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Homewood AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Homewood AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Homewood HVAC Training In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you should pick 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 sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Homewood AL.