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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Homewood Alabama

Homewood Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Homewood AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are important 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. These and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor

Homewood Alabama HVAC Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Homewood AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

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There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Homewood AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning 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 exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to finish, a number of 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 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 right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Homewood AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option in attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also provide 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 alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Homewood AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Homewood and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Homewood Alabama Heating and Cooling tech repairing water heater

Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Homewood AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Homewood AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program 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 complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, 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 validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Homewood AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Homewood AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment 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 trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Homewood AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Homewood AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased 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 monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

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

Find Out More About Homewood Heating and Cooling Trade Schools Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to 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 features to look for are lots 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 talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Homewood AL.